New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brushed off CPAC's snub Wednesday, telling an audience in Montville, New Jersey, "I didn't even know that I hadn't been invited to CPAC until two days ago when I saw it in the news."
According to The Record, Christie also told a resident who asked about why he's apparently being ostracized, "I can't sweat the small stuff. I have a state to rebuild," saying, "It's not like I'm lacking for invitations to speak. It's their organization. It's their business."
American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas tried to defend CPAC's decision not to invite the most popular Republican in the country, telling National Journal in an email, "CPAC is like the all-star game for professional athletes; you get invited when you have had an outstanding year." As NBC's First Read points out, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin and Allen West have all been invited.
In our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Christie is more popular than the president—and the Pope. He's also more popular than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, often paired with Christie in 2016 speculation. Christie's overall favorable/unfavorable rating is 24 points in positive territory; 36% view him positively, just 12% have negative opinions. By contrast, Rubio is viewed positively by 24% of respondents, and negatively by 17%.
But Rubio outscores Christie among Republicans, with an impressive 47% positive/7% negative rating, better than Christie's rating of 39%/9%.
Our pollsters also compare the ratings of Rubio and Christie when they were first tested in the poll to other one-time Republican nominees who were just becoming known. Both Rubio and Christie score far better than former presidential candidate Mitt Romney did among the general public in December 2006. Arizona Senator John McCain was almost as well-liked, and much less divisive, when he was first tested, back in April 1999.