Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidates Chris Christie and Donald Trump talk during a commercial break in the first official Republican presidential debate of the 2016 campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, Aug. 6, 2015. 
Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

Christie sinks in New Jersey, soars in New Hampshire

If the race for the Republican presidential nomination were decided by GOP voters in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) would be in serious trouble. The latest Rutgers poll, published yesterday, shows the scandal-plagued governor’s approval rating sinking to just 33% in his home state – an all-time low. Only 14% of New Jersey Republicans support Christie’s presidential bid.
Three hundred miles to the north, however, the governor is in far better shape. A new WBUR poll of New Hampshire Republicans was released this morning, and take a look at who’s suddenly in second place.
1. Donald Trump: 27% (up from 23% in a WBUR poll in November)
2. Chris Christie: 12% (up from 6%)
3. Marco Rubio: 11% (down from 13%)
4. Ted Cruz: 10% (up from 8%)
5. Jeb Bush: 8% (up from 7%)
6. John Kasich: 7% (unchanged)
7. Ben Carson: 6% (down from 13%)
The remaining candidates were each at 3% or lower.
Trump’s 27% is the strongest support any Republican candidate has had in any WBUR poll conducted this year, suggesting his support in the Granite State is actually getting stronger.
But it’s Christie’s improved standing that’s probably more important.
Keep in mind, as recently as September, a WBUR poll showed the governor in eighth place, with just 2% support. His position is vastly improved, bolstered by his near-constant presence in the state and an endorsement from the Union-Leader newspaper.
What’s more, this isn’t the only poll pointing in this direction: the latest results from PPP and CNN/WMUR surveys also show Christie gaining strength in New Hampshire.
And while this probably makes the first Republican primary more interesting – note that a mere six percentage points separate Christie, Rubio, Cruz, Bush, Kasich, and Carson in today’s results – it’s fair to say Christie’s rise in the Granite State represents more bad news for the Republican establishment. After all, party insiders are more interested in seeing Trump lose, not seeing the mainstream anti-Trump vote split in more directions.
If Trump were facing one or two principal rivals, he might very well be struggling in New Hampshire. But with Christie moving up, and six Trump rivals auditioning for the role of anti-Trump, Republican officials are left once again to smack their foreheads in disgust, despairing at their misfortune.
The New Hampshire primary is in 59 days. Watch this space.