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Rothenberg: Is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Overhyped?

Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg
Christie has high approval numbers, but election season may change that.

Part of the governor’s appeal in his state (and re-election strength) follows from his political embrace of Obama after Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey’s coast, as well as from his criticism of House Republicans for delaying passage of a relief bill.

But while those actions boosted his reputation in the state and among members of the national media for political independence and straight talk, they aren’t likely to be regarded the same way by Republican activists and primary voters when the party picks its nominee for president.

If he runs for president, Christie will have to overcome the impression that he went much farther than he needed to in praising Obama right before the 2012 balloting, as well as that he showed too much relish in criticizing House Republicans.

Maybe even more important, one veteran Republican strategist suggests, “there will be a consensus in the party that we lost the last two presidential elections because we nominated moderates (John McCain and Mitt Romney). Conservatives will demand a conservative, and that may leave Christie out in the cold.”

With a field that could well include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Christie suddenly doesn’t seem so imposing.

Christie’s best chance for the Republican presidential nomination may well have been in the winter of 2011-12, when many Republicans (both activists and contributors) were worried about Romney’s chances and were looking for an alternative.

Back then, Christie might well have rallied both conservatives and establishment Republicans. But in 2015 and 2016, given the potential field, the New Jersey Republican is not likely to look like the political savior he might once have been.

If he runs for the GOP nomination in 2016, Christie deserves to be taken seriously. Just don’t expect him to be the political powerhouse that his current 74 percent job approval suggests.

Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report (rothenbergpoliticalreport.com).

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