In the past few months, Chris Christie’s name seems to have assumed a permanent spot in the headlines. Between “Bridgegate” and now the most recent stories that report that Tesla can no longer sell cars in New Jersey, Christie’s approval ratings have dropped fairly quickly. To give some background:
In January it was reported that an advisor under Christie conspired to close down three toll lanes in Fort Lee at the George Washington Bridge in some sort of “retaliation” against Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich. Though Christie has claimed that he was unaware of the shutdowns and was not involved, emails surfaced that prove that Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, had prior knowledge and took no steps to stop the closures. Also, the fact that Bill Wildstein (under whose order the lanes were closed) was reportedly was a friend with Christie from high school further supports some prior communication between the two. Additionally, Mark Sokolich’s decision to not endorse Christie in his gubernatorial run seems evidence for a spiteful retaliation by Christie.
This week, New Jersey legislatures have cracked down on Tesla motors. Technically, automakers must sell their cars through franchises, not directly to customers. Thus far, Tesla has opened “show rooms,” not dealership franchises. Therefore Tesla cannot sell cars in New Jersey. Technically, Christie is not directly involved. In fact, he responded by saying, “I’m not pushing Tesla out, the state Legislature is.” But the simple buzz around the topic isn’t good for him. Not only does it pit him against an environmentally friendly and innovative company, but it also characterizes Christie and New Jersey as in favor of regulation of the free-market (a very anti-conservative sentiment). Though this might seem like an extremely minor issue, it serves as a means to perpetuate Christie’s name in the media in a negative manner.
But as various stories continue to surface, the problem for Christie’s future (in particular his 2016 aspirations) are not the actual politics, but his personality. Chris Christie has developed a reputation as a bully. In response to the “Bridgegate” scandal, Christie chose to distance himself from Bill Wildstein in true Christie fashion. He responded to the allegations that they were friends in high school:
I met David on the Tom Kean for governor campaign in 1977. He was a youth volunteer, and so was I. Really, after that time, I completely lost touch with David. We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.
And even if Christie wasn’t directly involved with the closure of the lanes, clearly his staff took cues and initiative from the style of leadership headed by Christie.
The combative and punitive nature doesn’t stop there. In 2011, Christie accused State Senator and former governor Richard J. Codey of being “combative and difficult” in his efforts to block Christie’s nominees. Almost immediately following, the former governor was stripped of his trooper that accompanied him to public events (customary for former governors) and his cousin was fired from his position at the Port Authority. Christie responded to a Rutgers political science professor in a similar fashion. Alan Rosenthal was the deciding vote for the Democrats’ redistricting map that shut down the map that Christie had hoped for. Chris Christie sought revenge by line-item vetoing two programs under the professor’s Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.
There are the types of punitive actions that tarnish Chris Christie’s personal reputation more so than his political one. But this might explain why his approval ratings have only dropped to 50%, which is still relatively high. Overall, he is still looked upon highly as a political figure. But as the presidential election comes closer, his personality will definitely play more of a pivotal role for his campaign. As proven by president Obama’s campaign, likability and personality are key. And despite Christie’s relatively high approval ratings in New Jersey as governor, Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky tops CNN’s recent poll for 2016 GOP candidates. It’s still early, but Chris Christie’s reputation for being a bully will surely come back to bite him in his bid for the GOP nomination. But again, his political prowess will most likely boost his approval, so don’t count him out just yet.
Photo courtesy of thenation.com