Christie Losing Support From Democrats Amid Bridge Probe

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, dogged by recent political controversies, is losing the Democratic support that helped the Republican earn a landslide re-election victory less than three months ago.

Twenty-nine percent of Democrats approve of Christie’s job performance, a drop from 51 percent in November, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll of New Jersey voters released today. His overall approval is 53 percent, down from 68 percent.

Christie, 51, won over Democrats and independents last year with his leadership after Hurricane Sandy. The governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, began his second term yesterday facing inquiries about his office’s spending of Sandy aid and its ties to politically motivated traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge.

“With another week of revelations, damage appears to have been done,” David Redlawsk, director of the poll, said in a statement. “The goodwill the governor built up among Democrats with his handling of the Sandy aftermath is gone, at least for now.”

Hoboken Accusations

The poll of 826 New Jersey adults was conducted from Jan. 14-19. Two-thirds of the survey was completed before Hoboken’s mayor said Christie’s administration threatened to withhold Sandy recovery grants unless she supported a development project. Christie’s office immediately rebutted the claims by Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat.

Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie, declined to comment on the poll today in an interview in Trenton.

Christie beat his Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono, by 22 percentage points in November after securing the majority of women and Hispanic voters, both segments his party is trying to more aggressively court. He became the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to win more than 60 percent of the vote since Tom Kean in 1985.

Now, 46 percent of respondents give Christie a favorable rating, down from 65 percent in November, the Rutgers-Eagleton poll found. While support fell among Republican and independent voters, a majority in those blocs still favor Christie.

Republican Governors

Even with the drop, Christie is better off than other Republican governors. Recent polls by Quinnipiac University found Rick Scott with 42 percent approval in Florida, while Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania had 36 percent approval.

“Governors across the country will still be very envious of Christie’s above-50-percent approval rating,” said New Jersey Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, of Westfield. “It’s no real surprise that some support among Democrat voters has slipped following weeks of accusations made by Democrats. Poll numbers change all the time.”

Democrats, who control both houses of the legislature, are examining what Christie or members of his administration knew of the lane closings and whether they tried to cover it up. Legislative committees on Jan. 16 issued 20 subpoenas to individuals and organizations.

Only 5 percent of those surveyed for Rutgers-Eagleton had not heard about the bridge controversy. The Christie administration’s ties to the September traffic messes came to light in a cache of e-mails and text messages obtained on Jan. 8 by news outlets.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote on Aug. 13 to David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the George Washington Bridge. “Got it,” Wildstein replied.

Sandy Money

Christie’s troubles grew Jan. 13, when the independent inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it was auditing Christie’s expenditure of $25 million in federal Sandy disaster aid on a “Stronger Than The Storm” ad campaign featuring Christie, his wife and their four children. Democratic lawmakers have said the ads gave Christie free publicity as he campaigned for a second term.

The scandals also are hurting Christie’s standing as a national political figure and he’s losing ground to Democrat Hillary Clinton in a potential 2016 presidential matchup, a separate poll released yesterday shows.

Christie trails Clinton 46 percent to 38 percent among American voters, according to a survey by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac. That compares with a poll by the university last month that showed the two essentially tied, with about 40 percent support for each.