A year after being snubbed altogether by the Conservative Political Action Conference, Gov. Chris Christie spoke at the annual event held last week in National Harbor, Md., getting a warm reception after skewering the media, White House and congressional Democrats in a brief but fiery appeal to the conservative base.
But despite actually receiving an invitation to speak this year, Christie finished in the same position that he did last year in the conference’s presidential nominee straw poll: fourth.
For a second straight-year, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky took the top spot, receiving 31 percent of the vote. Behind him was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 11 percent and neurosurgeon Ben Carson received 9 percent.
And then there was Christie, whose 8 percent of the vote marked a slightly better performance from 2013, when he received 7 percent without being invited at all.
So what does this performance mean for Christie as a 2016 hopeful?
Farleigh Dickinson University professor and PublicMind Poll director Krista Jenkins said that while it’s not great news for the governor, it’s by no means a definitive indication of where he’ll end up ranking among conservatives.
Jenkins said Christie’s performance at CPAC was both good and bad for him as it certainly elevated his profile in front of an important party contingent but “also shows he’s got some ground to cover if he wants to be the nominee.”
“It shows who his competition is,” Jenkins said.
There’s no way of telling, if any, what impact recent scandals engulfing the Christie administration back in Trenton may have had on his poll standing, but Jenkins said that CPAC would have been a tough crowd for the governor to appeal to regardless.
Paul’s consecutive victories, for instance, come on the heels of him taking a number of high-profile stands in the Senate on issues such as NSA surveillance and the Affordable Care Act.
“This is a very conservative group,” Jenkins said.
Currently in Florida attending spring training for the New York Mets, his favorite baseball team, Christie will return to New Jersey this week in time to host a town hall Thursday in Mount Laurel.
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