He was at 65 percent approval a month ago so there has been some deterioration, but any Republican who’s splitting 62/30 among independents in a blue state with a scandal swirling around him is doing okay.
First, the national numbers from Pew. This story is, as you might have guessed, vastly more important to political media and cable-news watchers than it is to the rest of America:
Overall, just 16 percent say their views of Christie are less favorable now than they were before. Sixty percent say the scandal’s made no difference and six percent say it’s actually improved their view of him. The only solace you can take in those numbers if you’re a Christie-hater is that he, more than any other GOP candidate, is counting on his relative popularity with independents and Democrats to drive his “electability” pitch in 2016. Per Pew, that 16 percent who say they think less of him now includes 25 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of independents. The more his numbers dip with those groups (which is to some degree inevitable), the weaker the argument for nominating him gets. Then again, 55 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents say their opinion hasn’t changed. How damaging can a scandal be if a majority of the other party doesn’t care?
For the Jersey numbers we turn to Monmouth. As noted, 59 percent approve of his job performance and many more view him favorably on balance than unfavorably (44/28), although that’s several points below where he was just before Hurricane Sandy. Jerseyites are skeptical that he’s being honest about what he knew about Bridgegate, but they believe him when he says he wasn’t involved: 51 percent say he’s not being completely honest and 52 percent think he knew about the damning traffic e-mails before the scandal broke, but 52 percent also say he wasn’t involved (versus 34 percent who think he was) and 62 percent think he dealt with things responsibly. In fact, when asked if they still would have voted for Christie knowing then what they know now, 88 percent (including 75 percent of Democrats) said yes. The problem for Christie opponents, I think, is convincing people that he’s guilty of some special sin here even if they already believe he’s guilty of something. Revealing:
A majority of Jersey voters think this wasn’t typical of Christie’s M.O. and, of those who think it was, fully three-quarters think other politicians behave that way too. Hard to make the argument stick that he’s a bully who can’t be trusted with power when the response is “hey, all politicians are like that.” Or is it just that Jersey voters, so used to scandal, feel this way while voters nationally might not?
Enormous caveat here, needless to say: If he’s directly implicated in the bridge lane closings and/or if more pols come forward with stories of retaliation for not endorsing him, the numbers will move. One Democratic mayor’s already done that today, claiming that meetings with the governor’s agencies on infrastructure were canceled after he declined to endorse Christie. Let’s retake these polls in a month and see where things stand.