As his advisers spread word that Chris Christie will seek re-election in 2013, the New Jersey governor's prospects in his home state have never looked brighter.
A Farleigh Dickinson University poll of Garden State voters released Monday showed that 77 percent of respondents approve of his job performance, including 67 percent of the Democrats surveyed. In the previous Farleigh Dickinson poll (released in October), just 26 percent of state Democrats and 56 percent of overall voters had rated his job performance positively.
The earlier poll was pre-Hurricane Sandy, however, and it's clear that the Republican's assertive leadership and hands-on response in the storm's aftermath -- as well as his full embrace of a supportive President Obama -- significantly boosted his standing in the state where Sandy made landfall and inflicted historic damage to the shoreline.
"New Jerseyans were just overwhelmingly positive about the way he handled the storm and its aftermath and, in particular, the bipartisan outreach to Obama," said Rutgers pollster David Eagleton.
In a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released last week, 59 percent of New Jersey voters supported Christie's re-election against a generic Democratic opponent in next year's gubernatorial race, while just 32 percent opposed a second term. Those numbers are significantly up since September, when just 44 percent wanted to see Christie re-elected, while 47 percent did not, according to the same polling organization.
But winning a second term as governor in bright blue New Jersey is not the same proposition as prevailing in a 2016 Republican primary season. Christie's unrestrained chumminess with Obama in Hurricane Sandy's aftermath may have compromised the superstar governor's standing within his own party.
Although Christie's emphatic praise of the president's leadership in Sandy's wake went over well with Democrats and Republicans alike in a state in which Obama bested Mitt Romney by 17 percent, there is no shortage of out-of-state Republicans who were dismayed when Christie praised Obama as "outstanding" and deserving of "great credit" as Election Day approached.
Christie was the first sitting governor to endorse Romney during the Republican primaries and was for months an active fundraiser and surrogate for the eventual nominee, but an array of prominent conservative media personalities led the post-Sandy backlash against him -- a response that has not subsided.
In fact, some of the very figures who tried unsuccessfully to persuade Christie to run for president in 2012 have changed their tune.
Iowa Republican fundraiser Gary Kirke was part of a small group of influential GOP Christie backers in the nation's first voting state who traveled to New Jersey in May 2011 to try to entice the reluctant Republican to enter the race.
In a brief interview on Monday, Kirke made clear that his and his peers' enthusiasm has waned significantly.
"With all due respect to the storm and all that, we felt that he sort of played into a political game there," Kirke said. "I don't know what his plan is, but it didn't go over very well with us."
A second previously vocal Christie supporter in an early voting state questioned the governor's keynote speech at the GOP convention -- which critics complained was not focused enough on Romney -- while also condemning his post-Sandy comments about Obama.