As Farleigh Dickinson University professor and PublicMind Poll director Krista Jenkins sees it, Gov. Chris Christie's first four years were about “shoring up his credibility” here in New Jersey.
But with all indicators currently pointing to a run at the White House in 2016, Christie may have to use this year to set the stage for a possible national campaign and test the political waters.
Simpler: Second-term Christie may be very different from first-term Christie.
"I would expect there to be some differences," Jenkins said of Christie in 2014.
That may include Christie pandering to the far-right as he attempts to win the support of party hardliners who might question his conservative credentials. Both Jenkins and Rutgers University professor and Eagleton Poll director David Redlawsk agree that a decision last week by the Christie administration to not defend two state gun laws could be an example of what's in store for his second term.
But Redlawsk says it will be on Christie to decide how far he's willing to go to appease the far-right or if he even needs to at all. Focus will be on how Christie toes the line between them and party moderates, he said.
"My guess right now is that he will make some moves to keep Tea Party folks from attacking him but that at the same time he will try to avoid being seen as making a hard right shift, since a large part of his appeal is supposed to be his ability to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters, including some Democrats," Redlawsk said in an email. "So he has to be a bit careful, and I think he will be."
Jenkins says that Christie's new position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association will help him spread his message nationally and establish himself outside of the northeast corridor.
With 2016 on the horizon, all the time spent away from New Jersey that the job calls for is a good thing, Jenkins said.
"It's required of him but it will also be beneficial to him," Jenkins said.
But even with Christie expected to frequently be on the road, Redlawsk says he doesn't expect his influence within the state to diminish any.
One thing in the immediate future Christie will need to do to bolster his political future is squash the lingering controversy surrounding the ordered closure of local lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
With state and now national Democrats both pressing the issue, it remains an "open question" for him entering 2014, Jenkins said.
Anything Christie can do to get the issue out of the news stream would be helpful to him, she said.
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