New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still technically running for re-election in the Garden State. But two new polls show him leading the pack of potential candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
A Rasmussen Reports poll released on Wednesday shows Christie leading the potential GOP field with 21 percent support. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio comes in a close second with 18 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been considering a presidential run after ruling it out for a number of years, is third with 16 percent.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is behind Bush with 15 percent. 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan garnered 13 percent of the vote in the poll.
Christie and Rubio have taken criticism recently from within their party for taking positions out of line with the conservative base. And Paul recently had a very public feud with Christie over military spending, with each man making barbs at the other.
Potentially adding to that rivalry, a WMUR/UNH New Hampshire poll released on Tuesday also shows Christie leading the Republican field with 21 percent. However in this poll, Paul comes in second, with 16 percent. Bush places third in the poll with 10 percent, followed by Ryan at 8 percent and Rubio at 6 percent, respectively.
New Hampshire is usually the second stop in the presidential nominating contest, but is the first in the national primary after Iowa’s caucus vote. It’s also widely considered a must win for more moderate Republicans like Christie who tend to struggle with Iowa’s more socially conservative caucus.
In 2012, when Christie declined to seek his party’s nomination, he said he needed more experience before making a run at the White House. However, he recently told the Washington Post’s Dan Balz that he had to resist some serious recruiting efforts from within the GOP that year.
"I wasn't ready to run for president this time," Christie told New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Steve Adubato. But as to a potential 2016 run, he added, "If it comes, I know that I will be more ready for it than I would have been this year."
Christie faces some substantial hurdles within his own party. Scott Rasmussen points out that while Christie leads in his latest poll, he also leads amongst Republicans who say Christie is the Republican they would least like to have as their party’s nominee.
All of that comes with the major caveat that the first Republican primary vote is more than 30 months away.
Christie’s early support hints that Republicans may once again face a choice between a more conservative nominee and a more moderate individual who would theoretically fare stronger in a general election against the eventual Democratic nominee.
And there’s some emerging evidence to suggest that Christie may indeed represent such a conundrum for his party. A Monmouth University poll released on Monday shows Hillary Clinton leading against any potential Republican opponent. However, Christie fares best against Clinton, trailing the former Secretary of State by just four points (43 to 39 percent), compared with Bush who trails by 10 points (47 to 37 percent), Rubio who trails by 11 (47 to 36 percent) and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who trails by 16 points (48 to 32 percent) in the poll.