Parsing Chris Christie's Moves on Gay Therapy Ban, Pot for Sick Kids With Eye on 2016

Christie denies flip-flopping on gun ban measure.

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Though New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently took action on a series of bills potentially laden with political land mines, top Republicans say his stances on the issues of gun control, gay conversion therapy and providing legal access to marijuana to sick children haven't torpedoed any presidential bid.

[POLL: Chris Christie Dominating New Jersey Governor's Race]

Christie, who is crushing his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, in his 2013 re-election bid, is oft mentioned as a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. His path toward the White House would begin with topping a Republican field in early primary voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which can have an outsized influence on the GOP race. Iowa and South Carolina, in particular, are known for being very socially conservative, potentially making Christie's support for gay conversion therapy ban and access to marijuana for sick children controversial issues.

But Ryan Williams, a veteran of both of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns, says he thinks Christie is fine in that regard. The gay conversion therapy ban, which only one other state – California – has passed, "isn't really something that is on most people's radar."

"With regards to the medical marijuana bill, Gov. Christie took appropriate steps," Williams says. "He expressed concerns, he asked for changes; that's how the process works. I'd point to a state like New Hampshire, which just this legislative session, with bipartisan support, legalized marijuana more broadly than he is proposing in New Jersey."

[PHOTOS: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie]

Christie, addressing the marijuana bill, said in a release that he believes parents not the government, "are best suited to decide how to care for their children."

Perhaps most problematic for Christie is his seeming about-face on some gun control measures – he tweaked two proposals, sending them back to the legislature – but vetoed a bill that would have banned the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, "the most powerful weapon commonly available to civilians," according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Christie has proposed a similar ban on the rifle following the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left 26 dead, mostly first graders, prompting some to say he flip-flopped on the issue. In a veto message, though, the governor said the legislature's proposal was too broad.

"Tellingly, the legislature points to no instance of this class of firearms being used by even a single criminal in New Jersey," Christie said. "The wide scope of this total ban, therefore, will not further public safety, but only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes."

Ed Rollins, a GOP consultant, says Christie is walking a fine line between what works in New Jersey and what works in wooing Republican presidential primary voters.

[READ: Christie, GOP Plan Party's Future in Boston]

"The governor is taking liberal positions that may help him roll up a big margin in his re-election bid in New Jersey, but will cause him serious damage in nominating states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina," Rollins says. "If [these stances are] what the governor believes, he has to go battle with many who take a different view than he does."

Governors are always in a tougher position than senators when it comes to established records, Williams says.

"Unlike senators who simply vote yes or no on budgets and legislation, governors have a wide reaching impact on their states and accumulate a record that is scrutinized," he says. "Every one of these is looked at down the road, but I don't think that any of the actions that Gov. Christie took in recent days will have any major impact on any potential presidential run. The bills are not of any national significance."

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