Jonathan Chait gets the politics of a possible Christie presidential bid backwards:
The unusual thing about Christie is that he is unlikable — or, at least, unlikeable by the standards of everywhere in America save New Jersey and perhaps some of its immediate environs. One problem here is that having a persona that’s tolerable only to residents of the Garden State, and unbearably obnoxious to the rest of America, is a poor formula for winning a presidential primary. Republicans may like the way Christie bullies and berates Democrats, but they don’t want to see him bullying and berating Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.
Chait is confusing his reaction to Christie’s combative style with the way that Christie is perceived outside his home state. Any discussion of polling on whether most Americans like Christie is notably absent from Chait’s post. If he were viewed as “unbearably obnoxious,” his favorability ratings wouldn’t be so good. 52% favorability nationwide for a politician who has only been in state office for one term is quite high. Other national Republican figures would love to be so “unbearably obnoxious” that a majority of Americans across party lines likes them. Chait writes about Christie as if it were still 2010, but in just the last year Christie’s favorable numbers have shot up quickly:
It helps that Christie is probably best-known nationwide for his response to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, and it doesn’t hurt that Christie has received generally positive media coverage over the last year. He has become much better-known since 2011, but he has also become much better-liked in the process, which is not usually how it works for a politician who prides himself on picking fights. As he gets into more high-profile arguments with other Republicans, or if he pursues policies in his second term that prove to be controversial or unpopular, all of this could change, but for the moment Christie is one of the more popular Republicans in the country.
Chait also misses that the Republicans that like Christie do so because of his “belligerence.” Romney angered and alienated a lot of Republicans because he attacked his rivals for their deviations from one party line or another, but this annoyed so many people because Romney himself was a total fraud with no credibility on any of the issues in question. It’s true that Rubio and Ryan fans don’t want to see them come under attack from Christie, but this assumes that Christie would direct his attacks at other Republicans rather than turn his ire on Democrats. Besides, on what issue is Christie going to attack Rubio and Ryan? That they are too “soft” on immigration? Christie has no interest in running to their right on this or any other issue.