New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose political career has taken almost as many turns as a roulette wheel at an Atlantic City casino, is running for president.
He made the announcement Tuesday at Livingston High School, which he attended and where he was class president. Declaring “America is tired of hand-wringing and indecisiveness and weakness” in the White House, Christie said he is ready “to fight for the people of the United States of America.”
Christie, 52, first came to prominence as a corruption-fighting U.S. attorney for New Jersey, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001. Christie went after public officials from both parties, eventually winning convictions or guilty pleas from 130 of them, by his count. The biggest name, former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, was convicted in 2008 on fraud charges.
In 2009, Christie ran for governor of the Garden State and defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine.
He scored political points with Republicans when he battled teachers unions and demanded cuts in public pensions. In town hall-style meetings across the state, he became known for the outspoken way he challenged people who disagreed with him. Christie flirted with a run for president in 2011 but ultimately decided that “now is not my time.”
In August 2012, Christie gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, a speech many said was heavy on references to Christie and light on support for the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney.
Christie then gained national attention as he praised President Obama’s response to Superstorm Sandy in the weeks before the 2012 presidential election, which many Republicans said detracted from the message of the Romney campaign.
After Obama’s re-election, Christie coasted to a second term in 2013. And as the now twice-elected Republican governor of a heavily Democratic state, Christie was thought to be near the front of the pack of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates.
Then came “Bridgegate.” And everything changed.
Bridgegate was what journalists dubbed the closing of two lanes of a busy highway leading to the George Washington Bridge and heading into New York City. It caused massive backups on local streets in Fort Lee, N.J. The closings were ostensibly for construction purposes, but there was no construction, and it soon seemed that something else might be at play: political payback.
The Democratic mayor of Fort Lee did not support the governor in his re-election bid.
Christie has vehemently denied any involvement in the closings, saying he learned of them only through press reports and after the fact. But a number of top aides were implicated and forced to resign. In New Jersey, Christie’s popularity plunged and his national ambitions have never recovered.
He is now seen to be at the back of the pack of the GOP presidential candidates. His moderate views on issues like same sex unions (he supported civil unions but not marriage), gun control and immigration might have been a tough sell in places like Iowa anyways.
So, as the Philadelphia Inquirer points out, Christie has got his work cut out:
“Monmouth University’s June 15 national poll, for instance, found Christie viewed favorably by 26 percent of likely Republican primary voters, and unfavorably by 43 percent — for a net of minus 17 percentage points. Fifty-five percent of Republicans in this month’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll said they would never consider voting for Christie.
‘There’s a path for Christie, but it’s a narrow one,’ said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth poll. ‘His high negatives and wide name recognition put a ceiling on his growth. He doesn’t have much room for error.'”
Christie is expected to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire in the coming weeks, which he hopes may be more hospitable to a fiscally conservative Northeasterner with moderate tendencies, and where Democrats and independents can vote in the state’s open primary.
It may be a long shot, but Christie hopes with another spin of the wheel to come up lucky.
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