New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is almost certainly headed for re-election today. Does that put him in an elevated position for a potential 2016 presidential run?
Not really. And it's not because Christie isn't appealing to a lot of voters – including Democrats and independents. It's because the sort of persona people find attractive in a governor are dramatically different from what is attractive – and more to the point, successful – in a president.
Being governor (or for that matter, mayor) requires a level of basic competence at handling day-to-day matters and local disasters. What added to Christie's popularity was his no-nonsense, hands-on approach to the various storms New Jersey has weathered – from his "get the HELL off the beach!" dictate during one hurricane to his tireless attention to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Sadly, it is exactly what was impressive about Christie's behavior after the storm that makes him weakened as a national candidate. Christie welcomed President Obama to his state and effusively thanked the Democratic president for his help. That's what governors and mayors ought to do when dealing with a non-partisan crisis. But there are legions of Republicans who will never forgive Christie for cavorting with the enemy.
Being an effective governor or mayor also means understanding that you represent the entire state or city, not just the people who voted for you the first time. That works well especially when dealing with infrastructure issues and other things that don't fall along clear party lines or ideologies. But that's also problematic for a presidential candidate, who needs to start with a loyal base and build out from there.
The irony is that being popular across party lines as a governor is a suspicious characteristic to the very primary voters one needs to run for president. If Democrats in New Jersey like Christie, what's wrong with him, conservatives may ask. Being a good governor means getting along with people. But running for president, at least in the current environment, means taking sides. And Christie hasn't taken enough sides for the politically active wing of his party.