Governor Chris Christie, a rising star in the Republican Party, is being very careful to balance his reelection efforts in 2014 with his aspirations for a possible candidacy in the 2016 presidential race. Just a week ago the governor was in an ideal situation, growing his name recognition and receiving remarkable favorability numbers from across the entire political spectrum, with more than half of Republicans, Democrats and Independents having a favorable opinion of him. With the death of Sen. Lautenberg, the governor will have to make some tough choices to appease the people of both New Jersey and the nation as a whole.
The Gallup poll, whose data was collected largely before the announcement of a special election, shows that he has Republican support and cross-partisan appeal, a rare combination, especially from someone who is so well known. Christie’s name identification is at a 72%, up from 49% two years ago.
But Chris Christie is putting these numbers at risk with his decision Tuesday not to hold the election to fill the Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg on the same day as his Gubernatorial election, instead making it three weeks earlier. Many on both sides of the aisle are accusing him of setting the $24 million election as a political maneuver.
In fact, the decision to hold any election at all angered Republicans who would have preferred he appoint a Republican to serve out the remaining 16 months of Lautenberg’s term.
Although the decision has advantages for both parties, this is the reason he has been criticized from both sides. Holding the senatorial and gubernatorial elections together would have hurt both the governor and Newark Mayor Cory Booker who is running for Senate. With the two popular politicians on different ballots, each will get top-billing on their ballot, which should guarantee each a win.
While that suggests his ambitions remain mainly in New Jersey, securing a large margin of victory against Democratic candidate for Governor Sen. Barbara Buono will leave him in a strong position for a possible 2016 run.
But Christie’s calculated risk seems worthwhile. The people of New Jersey may complain about the cost of an election but will applaud Christie’s stance that “We must allow our citizens to have their say” in an election. Christie will endure short-term criticism from both parties, but will be able to protect his increasingly positive public image, putting him in a strong position for his long-term goals of winning re-election and making a run at the White House in 2016.