‘A tale of two Christies’
In his first term, Gov. Chris Christie enjoyed soaring poll numbers following his leadership after Superstorm Sandy and after enacting a bi-partisan 2 percent property tax cap and public employees' pension and benefit reforms. In his second term, the governor's poll numbers have plummeted and bi-partisanship seemed like ancient history.
"Gov. Christie's first term seemed like a series of successes, but by the time we got to the second term it opened with Bridgegate and it seemed to go downhill from there," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "One of the issues that the governor had starting with his second term is that the Democrats who wanted to work with him, particularly (State Senate President) Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare) now realize that if they wanted to run for governor they needed to distance themselves from Gov. Christie."
Distancing themselves means standing up to Christie a lot more than Sweeney and other Democrats did in his first term, Murray explained. Fairleigh Dickinson University Political Science Professor Peter Woolley agreed.
"It's a tale of two Christies. The two terms could not be more different. The second term has been completely different for two reasons and one of them is that he's running for president and the other is that many of his rivals are running for governor," Woolley said.
Both political experts said the fact that Christie is running for president was hurting his popularity and effectiveness in New Jersey because he is out of state so often and he must speak conservatively on social issues to appeal to the GOP base he'll need if he has any chance to win his party's nomination.
Never count Christie out, Woolley advised. He said the governor could surprise many people and rebound in the Garden State.
"There's no indication of that, but you know what goes up always comes down in the polls and what goes down sometimes goes up in the polls," Woolley said.
The latest FDU-PublicMind poll on Christie's approval numbers released June 23, revealed only 30 percent of Garden State voters approved of the job he was doing while 55 percent disapproved. That was down from his all-time high in an FDU survey following Sandy in November of 2012 when 77 percent approved and just 17 disapproved.
The latest Monmouth University poll on Christie's approval numbers released July 2, showed 58 percent of registered voters in New Jersey approved of the job the governor was doing while just 36 percent approved. Christie's all-time high in a Monmouth survey came in February of 2013 when an even 70 percent approved and only 17 percent disapproved.