By John Celock
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) may have cruised to reelection by 22 points almost two years ago, but now Republicans in his home state are telling him to pull the plug on his presidential campaign.
A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Thursday shows that 54 percent of Republicans surveyed in New Jersey believe that Christie should drop out of the presidential contest. Forty one percent believe the second term governor should continue with his presidential ambitions. The poll also showed Christie lingering in single digits in the presidential field in New Jersey, where he and his inner circle have long dominated GOP politics.
The poll showed businessman Donald Trump leading with 32 percent among New Jersey Republicans, followed by physician Ben Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 13 percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at six percent. Christie tied with businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at five percent among New Jersey Republicans.
The poll comes two days after another Rutgers-Eagleton Poll showed Christie viewed unfavorably by New Jersey voters.
Christie’s presidential ambitions have seen gains in New Hampshire while his New Jersey numbers have continued to plummet. The second term governor has also seen defections among New Jersey Republicans, who have typically backed him. State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, a long time Christie ally, is backing Bush, while state Sen. Mike Doherty, a tea party leaning Republican who has long been at odds with Christie’s wing of the party, is backing Trump.
Trump has long done business in New Jersey, owning casinos in Atlantic City for several decades, along with building a golf course in Somerset County and a condo tower along the Jersey City waterfront. In addition, Trump’s domination of New York City tabloid headlines since the 1980s has given him long standing name recognition in northern New Jersey.
Fiorina also has ties to New Jersey, having lived in the state while an AT&T executive in the 1980s and 1990s.
The poll’s results are a reversal of what has been Christie’s domination of New Jersey Republican politics. Christie has been considered one of the state’s leading Republicans since his service as the state’s U.S. attorney during the George W. Bush administration. He easily organized establishment Republicans around his 2009 gubernatorial bid. Christie’s long time political ally and former law partner, Bill Palatucci, has been one of the state’s leading Republicans since the mid 1980s.
Christie’s approval in New Jersey has plummeted since his 2013 reelection over Democrat Barbara Buono, with the Bridgegate scandal taking a toll on the governor’s numbers. In addition, his numbers have taken a hit as his national travel increased in 2014 as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and then as his presidential campaign officially kicked off in 2015.