First off, a quick note of apology for my infrequent posting for the past month. A combination of things (travel, work, getting hooked on Breaking Bad) kept me from completing any longer posts, but I’m aiming to publish a few new pieces over next couple of weeks.
On August 5, Quinnipiac University released their “Thermometer” poll that tracks the “heat,” or popularity, of leading political figures. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie placed first on the list and Hillary Clinton placed second, lending credence to the speculation that each is a respective frontrunner for their party’s presidential nomination in 2016.
Well- sort of. Although Christie’s high ranking suggests he’s uniquely poised to challenge and possibly defeat the Democratic nominee, he only ranks eighth in popularity among Republican voters. Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum, among others, are more popular than Christie.
I’m hesitant to ascribe any meaningful weight to this Quinnipiac poll, since it doesn’t directly concern the 2016 election (which a long way off), and the concept of “heat” or “popularity” is murky compared to actual voting polls. But it does seem to emphasize a worrisome trend that we’ll probably discuss quite a bit on this site: a gap between the Republican base and the broader interests of American voters. Christie is a gift-wrapped candidate for the GOP, a strong personality with crossover appeal despite a consistently conservative record. Polls like this show he has a legitimate shot of going toe-to-toe with the next Democratic candidate, at least in terms of his persona and the support he’s gleaned from current policies.
It’s a worrisome sign, then, that Christie is so disproportionately regarded by Republican voters and the general populace. It’s disappointing to see the GOP base rally behind the same ideological group that was handily defeated in 2012, and it’s even more discouraging to see Christie’s cooperation with President Obama after Superstorm Sandy hurt his party prospects. One can’t help but fear that the GOP plans to continue doubling down on the same package of platforms that voters rejected in the last election. A continued insistence on policies that won’t be successful, such as defunding the health care plan while the President is still in office, will sacrifice Republican credibility on other issues where strong counter-proposals to Democratic initiatives are welcome. (Internet privacy and market-based solutions to reducing energy consumption are two issues that immediately spring to mind.)
On a semi-related note, New York Magazine has a worthwhile look at Christie’s success in advance of this November’s gubernatorial election in New Jersey. Despite a limp conclusion and some amusingly purple prose in the introduction (apparently NJ is “the site of a fevered, haywire sexuality, a place where all of the most full-blooded human instincts run loose”), it’s a comprehensive read on how Christie became so popular.