As he gears up for his November reelection bid, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., continues to post formidable approval numbers, and the popular northeastern Republican may even be demonstrating some early strength as a 2016 presidential candidate, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
Christie's approval rating, at 74 percent, is the highest ever recorded for a New Jersey governor by Quinnipiac. Even 56 percent of Democrats approve of Christie's performance; only 38 percent disapprove.
Christie's support in his upcoming reelection more than doubles that of his likely Democratic rival, State Sen. Barbara Buono, with 62 percent of respondents backing the incumbent and only 25 percent backing his opponent. His early reelection coalition couples near-unanimous support among Republicans (93 percent) with a strong majority of independents (68 percent) and a sizable slice of Democrats (31 percent.)
And if Christie wins reelection and decides to seek the presidency in 2016, according to Quinnipiac, the Republican would have a fighting chance to turn New Jersey, solidly Democratic in presidential elections, into a GOP victory.
In a prospective matchup with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - a former senator from neighboring New York - Christie narrowly loses, with 49 percent of New Jersey voters backing Clinton and 45 percent backing Christie. Christie leads 58-35 among men, while Clinton leads 60-34 among women.
But matched against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., another potential Democratic contender in 2016, Christie comes out on top among Garden State voters, 54 to 36 percent.
The New Jersey poll surveyed 1,149 registered in-state voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, the other state with a gubernatorial race in 2013, the field is far more muddied, according to Quinnipiac: likely Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe is statistically tied with likely Republican nominee, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, while the inclusion of potential independent candidate Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, R-Va., tilts the race only slightly toward the Democrat.
In a two-way matchup, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli each enjoy the support of 38 percent of registered Virginia voters. When Bolling, the Republican lieutenant governor who may seek the governor's office as an independent after declining to take on Cuccinelli in the GOP primary, is included, McAuliffe narrowly beats Cuccinelli, 34 to 31 percent, with Bolling himself earning only 13 percent support.
Current Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., while not quite in Chris Christie territory, continues to impress voters with his job performance, with 53 percent of respondents voicing approval and only 28 percent disagreeing. McDonnell has also been mentioned as a possible 2016 GOP presidential aspirant.
The Virginia poll surveyed 1,112 registered in-state voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.