Chris Christie apologizing

In the short term the bridge scandal hasn’t done much damage to Gov. Chris Christie with 2106 Republican primary voters. A new NBC News/Marist poll found 69 percent of Republican say the scandal has not changed their opinion about him. The majority of Republicans think he is telling the truth and 71 percent still see him as a strong leader and not a bully.

The Republican base’s willingness to believe Christie has allowed him to maintain a national lead for the 2016 Republican primary. He is in first place with 16 percent, followed by Paul Ryan with 12 percent and Rand Paul at 9 percent.

The real damage, though, has been with Independents and Democrats. Back in December Christie trailed Hillary Clinton by only three points, now he trails in the general election by 13. While the predictive power of polling two years out is highly limited, numbers like this could quickly start undermining his chances of building a solid primary campaign team/warchest.

Christie is not ideologically perfectly aligned with the base. His big selling points were toughness and electability. The electability argument is now damaged and it appears his “toughness” could become a liability. This could make it difficult for Christie to lock in the early donors and endorsements.

Photo by Peter Stevens, used under Creative Commons license