New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval ratings are at an all time low in his home state. On Thursday, a Rutgers Eagleton poll clocked the governor’s approval rating at just 26 percent among New Jersey residents.
Even so, as Christie continues to make appearances with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump and defend the businessman’s candidacy at the slew of press conferences he has held in NJ the past few weeks, the possibility that Trump is vetting Christie as a vice presidential pick is becoming easier and easier to believe.
But, with his approval ratings so low, is Governor Christie a viable pick? Or is he a nonstarter that could do some damage to Trump’s presidential run?
According to Ben Dworkin of the Rider University Rebovitch Institute for NJ Politics, Christie may actually be a strong pick for Trump despite those lagging poll numbers.
“I certainly think he is someone Trump would want to consider for several reasons,” Dworkin said of Christie. “First of all, I don’t think Trump cares about polls. Second of all, he would fill in certain gaps in governmental experience to a Trump presidential ticket which is what he would want when picking a vice presidential candidate.”
Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray also believes that Christie fits the bill for a Trump vice presidential pick.
“Christie’s poor approval rating is only a problem in New Jersey and there are 49 other states,” Murray said. “The Trump supporters right now are confident in Trump to do whatever he wants. He is not a bad pick. He is not a flawed pick. The guy is a two-term governor. He ran a presidential campaign. He didn’t do particularly well but he didn’t embarrass himself in doing it. He has some vetting and he is somebody Trump clearly likes enough to keep around.”
But what about the attacks waged against Christie by his opponents while he was still running his 2016 presidential campaign? In that instance, Christie was unable to overcome salvos by his foes exposing his high negatives and ever gain true momentum as a presidential candidate. He dropped out after the New Hampshire primary in February after holding countless town hall meetings and events in the Granite State with a New Hampshire pin on his lapel. Despite a serious effort in NH, Christie’s campaign died there, inviting the question of whether or not his reputation could come back to haunt Trump as a VP.
According to Dworkin, despite Christie’s excruciating loss in the presidential race, the fact that he has already run the gamut on press coverage while on the national stage might be a positive due to the lack of surprises in store if he were to again be thrust into nationwide spotlight.
“You pick someone who hasn’t gone through the national media ringer in terms of investigative reporting and you might end up with somebody who has surprises,” Dworkin said. “But I don’t think you have that problem with Governor Christie.”
For Dworkin, the only issue that might surround Christie as a VP pick is the fact that the Bridgegate trial is expected to start in the fall. While Christie is not on trial, Dworkin said that because he faces heavy media scrutiny surrounding Bridgegate, Trump might not like the diversion of attention sparked by his running mate.
Normally, when a candidate picks a running mate, he attempts to strike some kind of contrast between the two in terms of geography, ideology, etc. But Christie and Trump are from the neighboring states of New Jersey and New York. They both pride themselves on honest, brash styles. According to Murray, Trump’s renegade nature likely means that issues of balance won’t be a priority for him.
“Trump doesn’t follow any sort of rules,” Murray said. “He doesn’t follow regional balance or ideological balance or anything else. He probably would like somebody who is a lot like him.”
While Christie and Trump might be a lot a like in terms of style, the two do differ in one important area: party status. While Trump is seen as a Republican outsider, Christie was once the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. He has fundraised for Republicans all over the country. While Trump might be anti-establishment, Christie is firmly rooted in the GOP. A Christie pick might help assuage those Republicans in the stop-Trump camp.
However, according to Dworkin, there might be something else holding Christie back from jumping aboard Team Trump: Christie.
“I don’t think Christie would want it,” Dworkin said of Christie as a VP candidate. “He is too much of an alpha politician. I cannot imagine that he wants to be responsible for nothing more than having a heartbeat. Nothing in his background indicates that this is someone who wants to be the number two person.”
So, while it might seem that the numbers don’t add up for Chris Christie to become the Republican nominee for vice president, it seems that numbers only factor in when looking at the Garden State. According to Murray, if Christie is added to Trump’s ticket, the worst thing that could happen was it would hurt Trump in one state come November: New Jersey. A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won the New Jersey general election since 1988.
“Trump is not going to win in New Jersey, then, but he wasn’t going to win it anyway,” said Murray regarding what will happen to Trump if he puts Christie on the ballot.
Right now, Christie is desperately trying to repair his image in his home state. He has held three press conferences a week over the past few weeks. He has proudly proclaimed that he “is back.” This afternoon, Christie will appear alongside former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, the posterchild for falling back into favor after a disgraced gubernatorial term. He has put much of his recent focus into an issue easily agreed upon by those on both sides of the aisle: curbing opiate and heroin addiction.
But will it be enough?
With the second highest Republican contender Texas Senator Ted Cruz already having announced former HP CEO Carly Fiorina as his VP pick, it is possible Trump may soon make his choice. Only time will tell if he picks Governor Christie to fill that spot.