WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has already rolled out his bid for re-election, months before the filing deadline. It’s giving Democrats months to decide if they want to face off against the popular governor in 2013.
Christie is the only candidate to disclose his intentions. Newark Mayor Cory Booker has expressed interest in being the Democratic standard bearer but says he's not ready to make a final decision.
Other Democratic names that have surfaced as possible candidates include Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Congressman Frank Pallone, State Senator Barbara Buono, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is also State Democratic chairman.
Christie’s approval ratings are in the 70s, and polls show he has made in roads into the Democratic base including with women.
The governor made his re-election news at a firehouse in Port Monmouth, hit hard by Sandy's storm surge. Yet, he had a warning for any potential opponents that it will not be “okay to play politics with this storm.” Although Christie cited his desire to see through the recovery from Sandy as his motivation for seeking a second term, and letting citizens now about it early on. Christie has previously been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for nation-wide office.
But the election for the Garden State’s top spot is a year away and much can happen in during that time. Peter Woolley, political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University says it’s a mistake to use polls from November 2012 to predict the outcome of a 2013 election.
"Right now people are over rating Christie's chances. What you see in the polls is a storm surge," Woolley said. “There is no reason to believe, especially in New Jersey, that his numbers will stay up there. What comes up most come down."
And Woolley points out in the months ahead the Christie will have to make difficult calls involving the massive rebuilding effort that's going to require tens of billions from Washington. And that’s not all, as Woolley notes. “Then there are the very real budget problems the state had before Sandy.
And Brigid Harrison, professor of law and politics at Montclair State University, says there are views that New Jersey voters do not share with Christie, such as environmental issues.
Unlike New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Christie refuses to link Sandy to global warming. He’s previously said that weighing the possibility of global warming "was above" his "pay grade." And in May 2011, he withdrew the state from the 10 state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions saying it taxed electricity that in turn raised power prices for consumers. He said the state on its own was reducing the targeted gasses by using more natural gas. Harrison says that could be an avenue of attack Democrats use.
"If that candidate is Booker, I can see him pointing to the RGGI decision and engaging national environmental support" Harrison said. "Booker's got this hip, environmental persona."
And that could also translate into national campaign cash.