TRENTON (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie had hoped the New Jersey primaries Tuesday would be the day home state voters endorsed his Republican presidential candidacy.
Instead, Christie is at a crossroads — empowered by his early support of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump while struggling to earn approval at home as the state faces financial crises and the George Washington Bridge scandal.
Christie’s term ends in 2018, but with that brings the possibility of moving on to an administration post under Trump if the billionaire businessman is successful in November. At the same time, Christie faces hurdles that show no sign of going away, where a recent Fairleigh Dickinson poll showed just 26 percent approve of his job.
But his path lies less with esteem at home and more with a possible slot as vice president or attorney general.
“Popularity in New Jersey is really no longer a relevant factor to his political future,” said Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray. “Right now, he’s all in with Donald Trump.”
Christie is chairman of Trump’s White House transition team, in charge of recommending staff and about 4,000 agency positions if Trump wins. Christie also benefited from a Trump fundraiser that went to pay Christie’s presidential campaign debt.
Despite the polls and the slow drip of the bridge case, Christie is still an influential, respected figure among state Republicans. They point to his refusing to agree to Democratic proposals to raise taxes and his tackling the public pension.
“In New Jersey, unless you’re tough and unless you’re willing to take tough stands in this state, nothing gets done,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick. “Here’s a governor who came to Trenton and did something. When you do something, unfortunately, you make someone mad.”