If polls are any indication, it’s a long road to Pennsylvania Avenue for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but experts say he should not be counted out.
The bold and outspoken centrist Republican will announce his candidacy Tuesday in the gym of the Livingston, New Jersey, high school where he got his first taste of politics while serving as class president for three years, according to The Associated Press
It’s there that the governor, once a highly popular figure in blue New Jersey, will seek what The New York Times
characterizes as a "political rebirth … by relying on his powers as a teller, and mythologizer, of his own story.
"Using notes and a hand-held microphone, advisers say, he will invoke his grandmother’s arduous commute to work at the Internal Revenue Service, which required two bus rides, as he tries to relate to middle-class voters.
"He will depict his governorship as a noble battle to take on intractable problems and daunting crises," The Times writes.
"And he will cast himself as the rare politician willing to deliver unpleasant truths about the excesses of American life and the sacrifices required to rein them in. (His campaign slogan: 'Telling it like it is.')"
During his tenure as governor, pension deficits have resulted in credit downgrades, "major portions of the state’s transportation infrastructure are in tatters" and unemployment has surpassed the national average, according to the Times.
And then there was the 2013 bridge-closing scandal — known as Bridgegate — in which a Christie staff member and political appointees as an act of political retribution conspired to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by shutting down lanes of the George Washington Bridge.
Though Christie said he had no knowledge of the scheme, a claim that has been verified during investigations, his reputation was damaged by it.
On the flip side, Christie’s "combative charisma" has allowed him to "overhaul New Jersey’s tenure system for public school teachers, adopt a cap on the rate of property tax growth and pass a 'Dream Act' that grants in-state college tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants," all in a Democratic legislature.
Rather than follow the typical post-announcement blueprint — a swing through early voting states — Christie plans to capitalize on his strong suit — town hall meetings — which he will do for a week straight in New Hampshire beginning Tuesday, the Times reports.
Christie’s magnetic personality and formidable debate skills are tailor-made for the Granite State, former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath told The Hill
"He is very good at some of the things you need to succeed here," said Rath. "I’ve been to several of his town halls and he’s a horse: He goes in there for an hour and stays two hours, answers every question. That skill set is serving him well."
New Jersey lobbyist Dale Florio, who is a longtime Christie fundraiser, predicts Christie will set himself apart from the pack during the debates.
"The specificity, the directness and the confidence that I would expect him to exude will, I think, provide a nice wind to his back," he told The Hill.
"New Hampshire is tailored for his style of campaigning. He is the best retail politician [in the field] … It’s a slog, handshake-by-handshake.
"But that’s what’s expected by the voters in New Hampshire and that’s what they’re going to get when Chris Christie hits the road starting [Tuesday] afternoon."
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