Some nominees, such as Democrats Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, weren’t well known at this point in the campaign. Some, such as Republicans Bob Dole and Ronald Reagan, were very well known and popular. There was George W. Bush in 1999, who was particularly well liked, even if he wasn’t universally known. But no prior nominee had a net favorability rating more than 10 percentage points below where you’d expect given his name recognition.
Christie is 25 percentage points off the pace. His net favorable rating among Republicans in an average of YouGov polls so far this year, a December Monmouth University poll and a late November Quinnipiac University poll is just +19 percentage points. That was despite 77 percent of Republicans being able to form an opinion of him. Given his high name recognition, you would expect him to have a net favorable rating of +45 percentage points.
Just as troubling for Christie: The other plausible Republican candidates (who have been included in at least one poll) fall in line with the public profile of past nominees. Mitt Romney has a very high net favorable rating among Republicans, which you’d expect given how well known is. Bobby Jindal and Mike Pence aren’t well known and have relatively low net favorable ratings. Jeb Bush’s and Rick Perry’s net favorability ratings are 10 and 9 percentage points below where’d you expect, respectively, but that’s within a standard deviation of the forecast. Reagan was in a similar position at this point in 1979.