Christie’s low polling numbers put him in ‘undistinguished’ company among former governors
TRENTON — It has been less than a day since the state government shutdown ended, so it's too early to know what impact the events of the past three days will have on the popularity of the key figures involved, but for Gov. Chris Christie his already low polling numbers put him in danger of joining a conspicuous group of former chief executives.
According to a story on Fivethirtyeight.com Christie's 15 percent popularity polling numbers make him the fourth least popular governor in the country since the middle of the 20th century. The three governors ranked above (or below) him all have one thing in common. All three have either been convicted of a crime, or have been involved in questionable behavior.
Christie likely didn't help his polling numbers by staying at the gubernatorial beach house while the rest of Island Beach State Park was closed to the public for most of the holiday weekend. While the governor defended his actions before and after the shutdown ended the move was still widely criticized by many people.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, while not directly addressing the governor's decision of where to stay during the shutdown, said Christie brought up the topic of his unpopularity during negotiations to end the stalemate.
“He’s at 15 percent approval rating right now. When we met with him, when the leadership met with him from both sides, he says, ‘I’m at 15.’ He said, ‘I’m not that far from zero,’” Sweeney said.
And while the governor was never charged in the Bridgegate scandal that saw two of his former aides sentenced to prison, at least two of the former governors ahead of him in the survey were not as lucky.
The fivethirtyeight story put former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft as the most unpopular governor, polling at just seven percent at the lowest point in his time in office. According to the Toledo Blade, in 2005 Taft pleaded no contest to four first-degree misdemeanor ethics violations after he did not properly disclose golf rounds and other gifts he had received in office. He paid a $4,000 fine and issued a public apology, according to the Blade.
Taft did not resign from the governorship, but was unable to run for a third term due to term limits in the state. Politics runs in the family for Taft as his great grandfather was former President William Howard Taft, and his grandfather Robert A. Taft Sr. and father Robert A. Taft Jr. were both United States Senators.
Coming in just behind Taft in the story was former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. With popularity polling putting him at just eight percent Blagojevich was removed from office by the Illinois legislature after being convicted on corruption charges, according to the Chicago Tribune. Included in the charges was Blagojevich attempting to sell the senate seat formerly held by then President Barack Obama.
Depending on polling after the shutdown and what happens during Christie's last six months in office he could at least tie if not surpass former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, who finished his term with low polling of around 14 percent popularity.
According to PBS, Murkowski had come under fire for appointing his daughter to fill his senate seat when he became the state's chief executive. His approval also suffered after buying a state jet for his personal use, and a controversial deal for a new oil pipeline.
Murkowski lost in the primary to eventual governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but according to the PBS story was not too broken up by the loss.
"I'm going moose hunting. That's all I know," he said.
It seems unlikely Christie would join Murkowski on a moose hunt, but there has been no shortage of speculation about what he might do when his time in Trenton is done. Where his poll numbers end up by the time the next governor is sworn in in January also remains to be seen.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com