Jazz is going to have his hands full in the noble effort to convince America that resistance to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s ascension to his predestined status as the GOP’s 2016 nominee is futile. He will now have to contend with vaunted statistical analyst and FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver who shares the increasingly popular opinion that Christie’s chances of making it through the primary process with the most delegates are dwindling.
Silver makes the case that Christie has three major problems if he plans to seek the Republican nomination. The first is ideological: “He’s probably too moderate,” Sliver wrote.
“It’s a close call. [Jeb] Bush is not that much more moderate than Mitt Romney or John McCain, the past two Republican nominees,” he added. “Christie, however, ranks to the left of Bush by the statistical systems that measure candidate ideology.”
Using three metrics to make this claim – public issue statements, congressional voting record (if applicable), and fundraising – Silver pegs Christie is slightly more liberal than figures like Condoleezza Rice, Bob Dole, Richard Nixon, and even Jon Huntsman.
In fact, of the 28 popular Republican figures of the last half-century that Silver analyzed, Christie is ranked as the least conservative of all of them.
Christie’s second problem, according to Silver, is his level of self-discipline or lack thereof. The Garden State governor’s giddy appearance this weekend jumping with childlike glee along with the owners of the Dallas Cowboys in their skybox was not a good look. Moreover, it provided his likely competitors with an opportunity to take a few easy shots at Christie. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker may have landed the soundest blow on Wednesday when he tweeted an image of one of the many shareholders of the Green Bay Packers corporation. “This is the type of owner I’ll be looking to hug after the #Packers win on Sunday,” Walker wrote. Burn.
Somewhat more seriously, however, is the fact that Christie’s pugnacious temperament is beginning to wear thin with even his supporters. Pugnacity is one thing, but aggression is quite another. Silver observed that Christie’s tendency toward moderation has led some Republicans to agree with his critics when the governor comes under fire for adopting his trademark blunt persona with hecklers or political opponents.
Finally, the fact that Christie is perhaps the least popular Republican among GOP partisans indicates that he has been robbed of his claim to electability.
The decline in Christie’s favorability has also translated into his overall numbers. In late 2012, his favorability rating was 45 percent nationally against just a 20 percent unfavorable rating, according to Huffington Post Pollster. But Christie’s popularity has waned considerably in the wake of “Bridgegate” and other controversies. Now his ratings have turned negative; he has a 33 percent favorable rating and a 43 percent unfavorable rating, according to HuffPost Pollster. His head-to-head numbers against Hillary Clinton are no longer any better than those of fellow Republicans Bush and Mike Huckabee.
Silver does not rule out the possibility that Christie could still win the nomination, but he faces an uphill battle. Christie will have to convince the Republican primary electorate that his strength in a general election is enough for them to overlook those qualities in him they find grating. Given the current mood of the conservative grassroots, that prospect seems unlikely.