There’s a bit of a debate going on over at the Washington Post about Gov. Chris Christie, with Ezra Klein arguing that he’s only popular in small doses, and Jennifer Rubin responding that Republicans adore him. I’m surprised that Ezra would point to Christie’s 51 percent approval rating to back up his thesis. Considering that Christie was only elected with 48 percent of the vote, that he’s presided over brutal spending cuts in a liberal (or at least center-left) state, and is an officeholder at a time when Americans hate all elected officials, a 51 percent approval rating is pretty solid.
Ezra also notes his staff’s strategy of trying to capture YouTube moments of him confronting people at town hall meetings. But this isn’t merely about self-promotion, it serves an actual governing purpose. In the past, governors haven’t been able to make the type of cuts he has because they’ve been afraid of taking on the unions. By creating these viral YouTube moments which show him sounding like a responsible guardian of the state’s finances pitted against greedy and unreasonable public sector employees, he changed the dynamic and made these cuts possible. Ezra looks down on Christie’s 51 percent rating, but the approval rating for New Jersey’s teacher’s union is down at 39 percent (or 32 percent among non-public employee households).
Ultimately, this conversation is irrelevant within the context of the 2012 presidential race. I’d be willing to bet any amount of money that he doesn’t run this time around. Taking nothing away from him, the fact that he’s even being talked about as a possible candidate says more about the weakness of the Republican field. The guy has said repeatedly that he isn’t going to run, hasn’t taken any of the steps that would suggest he may do so, and he hasn’t even been governor for a year yet.
While we’re on the subject of Christie though, I’d highly encourage you to watch this ’60 Minutes’ segment on the Day of Reckoning for state budgets, which featured him.