He’s not running.  He’s said it a number of times, at least publicly, that he has no interest in challenging for the Republican nomination.  But if he did run, the latest Rasmussen poll shows Chris Christie in a virtual tie with Barack Obama:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters shows that Obama earns 44% support in the matchup, while Christie attracts 43%. Six percent (6%) prefer a third option, and eight percent (8%) are undecided. These numbers place Christie in the same league as other top GOP hopefuls within single digits of Obama including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Texas Governor Rick Perry  and businessman Herman Cain.

But not even the enthusiastic responders believe Christie will actually run:

However, just 26% believe the first-term governor is likely to run for the White House, a figure that includes only five percent (5%) who think he is Very Likely to run. Twenty percent (20%) of all voters think Christie should run for the White House, but nearly twice as many (37%) say he should not.

Among Republicans, 32% say he should run, 25% hold the opposite view, and 43% are not sure. Just 31% of GOP voters believe he is even somewhat likely to run, while 44% see a Christie campaign as unlikely.

Let’s take a look at the internals.  Christie wins men by a wide margin, 50/39, but loses women by the same margin, 37/48.  Voters under 50 favor Obama, while voters over 50 favor Christie.  Christie wins an edge with independents, 42/37, but not by a lot.  Oddly, 17% of conservatives would prefer to vote for Obama in this matchup, with only 69% sticking with Christie, and he loses big among moderates (30/48) and of course with liberals (8/88).

Compare that to Mitt Romney’s performance in a Rasmussen poll ten days ago, when he trailed Obama by only 3 points, 44/41.  Romney actually gets edged among independents 38/39, but Obama gets less traction, and undecideds will usually break against an incumbent.  Romney holds 76% of conservatives, too, but loses even bigger than Christie among self-professed moderates 30/57, probably because of being a more known quantity.

Does Christie position the GOP against Obama any better than Romney, who may be at least a little more conservative?  It doesn’t really appear so, and in a primary, they would probably occupy similar policy space.  Romney has also been in the race for a long time, and his numbers are therefore more solid.  As soon as Christie jumps into the race, people will start perusing his record with the same vigor as they have with Rick Perry and will find big issues.  Family Research Council president Tony Perkins has already warned that evangelicals will not flock to Christie’s side based on his track record in New Jersey.  As the debate sharpens on Christie’s record, these poll numbers could come down fairly quickly.

I’d still guess that Christie stays out.  However, this does show that he’d be competitive in a general election, and that may say a lot about the future of the incumbent.  Meanwhile, be sure to read Jazz Shaw’s pushback on Christie’s weight, especially with people who throw donuts from fat houses.