It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a year for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who many critics wrote off as a serious presidential contender in the aftermath of the 2013 scandal known as “Bridgegate.”
But lately Christie’s campaign has shown some new signs of life. Even though he has consistently polled in the single digits nationally, Christie had a solid few weeks that have included his remarks on drug addiction going viral, a forceful response to the Paris terror attacks that touted his experience as a federal prosecutor, and some influential endorsements in New Hampshire.
Whether or not that pays off – particularly in the Granite State, which holds the first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 9, and where Christie has all but staked his campaign – remains to be seen. In the meantime, here’s a look at the governor’s very high highs and very low lows of 2015.
A controversial quip about vaccinations:
Christie’s trip to London in February was overshadowed when he said parents should have a “measure of choice” when it comes to getting their children inoculated. The comment came as U.S. public health officials had been working to contain an outbreak of measles across 14 states. They pointed out, as did President Obama, that the science behind such vaccinations is sound and that requiring vaccination is crucial for combating public health threats.
The governor later walked backed his comments, with a campaign aide saying in a statement there is “no question kids should be vaccinated” for measles, adding: “At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”
Questionable luxury trips:
In February, the New York Times came out with a story about Christie’s predilection for luxurious trips that put him in “ethically questionable situations.” That included a lavish visit to Israel with his family paid for by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson (who had been lobbying New Jersey on gambling legislation) and an over-the-top trip to Jordan paid for by King Abdullah. Earlier in the year, the governor’s weekend trip to watch a Dallas Cowboys playoff game paid for by team owner Jerry Jones also raised concerns.
NJ fiscal woes:
The Garden State’s bond rating saw its ninth downgrade (the last one was in April) under Christie’s watch this year. Credit rating agency Moody’s said in a statement that the move reflected the state’s “weak financial position and large structural imbalance, primarily related to continued pension contribution shortfalls.”
The ‘Bridgegate’ indictments:
Christie has denied any prior knowledge of “Bridgegate,” the 2013 plot carried out by some of his former top allies and aides to cause traffic problems on the George Washington Bridge, likely as political payback for a mayor who had declined to endorse the governor.
Still, the scandal has remained a thorn in Christie’s side, and it flared again in May when David Wildstein, a former top appointee of the governor’s, pleaded guilty in connection with the plan. In addition, two of Christie’s former allies, Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni, were indicted. Critics have argued that even if the governor didn’t know about the scheme, the scandal reflected poorly on is judgment in picking members of his inner circle.
‘Ebola nurse’ sues Christie:
Last year, the governor came under fire for placing nurse Kaci Hickox, who had been in Sierra Leone treating Ebola patients, under mandatory quarantine in Newark, even though she tested negative for the disease. At the time, Christie argued he was doing what was best for the health and safety of those in the region.
In October of this year, Hickox sued the governor, alleging she was unconstitutionally held against her will and was deprived of due process.
Demoted to the kids table:
In November, Christie was bumped from the main, primetime Republican presidential debate stage to an undercard Q&A because of his low national poll numbers. The silver lining? The governor had a strong debate performance at the so-called ‘kids table’ against Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal. Because of a bump in his polling, Christie was able to return to the main debate stage in December.
‘Global warming is real’
Christie – who had not yet announced his 2016 ambitions – broke from several Republican presidential candidates in May when he said he believed in climate change and that humans have something to do with it. The governor, who made the remarks in New Hampshire, stressed the United States can’t act unilaterally to combat the problem and expressed major skepticism about cap and trade programs.
Top court rules in favor of Christie’s pension decision:
In June, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Christie could forgo pension payments he had initially promised – an issue he had been fighting over with several unions. Because the ruling said his administration doesn’t have to fill the $1.57 billion pension budget gap, an immediate fiscal crisis was averted (although it didn’t lift the crunch on things like schools and municipal aid). The decision, which reversed an earlier 5-2 ruling by a lower court that said the system had to be fully funded, was seen as a key victory for Christie.
Snagging the support of influential GOPers in Iowa:
Christie’s struggling campaign received a boost in September when a group of influential Iowa Republicans – who four years ago hopped on a private plane to the Garden State in a failed effort to convince Christie to run for president—announced they are backing him once again for commander-in-chief. The biggest “get” included agribusiness millionaire Bruce Rastetter.
When his speech about drug addiction went viral:
The governor also received a lot of positive attention in November when his remarks at a New Hampshire town hall event about a more humane approach to drug addiction went viral. The Republican, known for his rough and tough style, took a softer tone, describing how a successful law school friend struggling with drug addiction was recently found dead in a motel with empty bottles of Percocet and vodka. “It can happen to anyone, and so we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them,” Christie says in the video.
His strong reaction to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks:
Christie seized on the Nov. 13 Paris terrorist attacks and December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino Calif. to tout his national security background as a U.S. attorney in the aftermath of 9/11. During recent remarks in Iowa, the governor said he has the national security experience to be president, especially in comparison to the other candidates. “You see, acts of terrorism are not theoretical to me. They’re not something I got briefed about by some experts or heard testimony about in some basement room of the Capitol that is sterile and antiseptic. For the last 14 years, I’ve lived among those who have lost,” he said.
The Union-Leader endorsement
It appeared Christie’s commitment to New Hampshire was paying off when the influential, conservative-leaning Union-Leader newspaper endorsed the governor for president late last month. The timing of the announcement could not have been better, with the state’s primary just ten weeks away. Whether the endorsement translates into a bump in the polls, however, remains to be seen. Only three of the last six GOPers backed by the Union Leader won the state’s primary.
Christie also recently scored an important endorsement from New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley.