13. Chris Christie
[Updated July 15, 2014] When the Bridge-gate scandal broke in late 2013, Governor Christie’s star was badly tarnished. Suddenly, the charismatic, blunt-talking governor of New Jersey was tagged a “bully,” after his office was linked to a massive traffic jam leading to the George Washington Bridge. Political retribution was allegedly behind the tie-up.
Investigations and testimony are ongoing. Christie still has not been personally implicated in the scandal, though numerous political allies and staff have resigned or been fired. And so Christie has entered a kind of “new normal”: chairman of the Republican Governors Association, traveling the country on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidates, but with a cloud of scandal over his head.
Conservative groups hammer him for being too moderate. He has failed to bring conservatives onto the state Supreme Court, they say. Christie argues there’s only so much he can do with the Democratic legislature. His embrace of President Obama after superstorm Sandy, right before the 2012 election, also hurts Christie among conservatives. But his landslide reelection in 2013 – in which he won a majority of the women’s vote, half of the Latino vote, and a third of Democratic votes – showed how he could be a strong contender in 2016 among general election voters.
In July 2014, analysts still rank Christie as a top-tier candidate in a Republican field with no leader. But it’s not clear that he has broad enough appeal within his party nationally to win the nomination.