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Chris Christie Could Beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, But Will the GOP Let Him?

In an article about 10 months ago, PolicyMic predicted that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be the GOP front-runner for the 2016 presidential election and that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic favorite. Since then, Clinton has made headlines for being hospitalized for a blood clot, and Christie has attracted attention for ripping a New York Jets sports reporter for doing his job.

It's no secret that Christie's relationship with his affiliated political party has been on thin ice since he decided not to attend a Mitt Romney rally last November. After all, it was just a short 15-minute drive from his headquarters in Trenton, N.J. Although he claims he was busy in the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort, the snub happened right before the 2012 presidential election, and it hasn't been forgotten.

According to a Monmouth University poll, Christie is the most threatening Republican opponent to the former secretary of state if a presidential election were to take place today. He only trails her by four points, while all his party adversaries trail by double digits. Although he's likely the better choice to run against Clinton, Christie's favorability rating among GOP primary voters is worse than his rivals.

Considering that Christie is the "hottest" leader in the U.S., measuring 53.1 degrees in this Quinnipiac University poll, he still lags behind his potential primary opponents when it comes to Republican-base voters. However close he seems to beating out Clinton in the polls, it's still uncertain if the GOP voters will even allow him to get the chance to try in 2016.

It didn't help Christie's cause with conservatives when he embraced President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. And openly opposing the Republican Party's evolving libertarian movement wasn't exactly flattering to his party constituents, either. Although hugging Obama with a smile on his face and ditching Romney's rally hasn't labelled him an outright traitor, it certainly hasn't helped him.

Since November's election results, Christie's inner circle has hunkered down and worked to win over the party's skeptical powers that be. Whether it's been meetings with Republican money men, off-the-record conversations with conservative journalists, or late-night pow wows with past backers, Christie's reelection campaign and the fight to win back party support has been a full force effort.

Today, Christie's popularity with the Republican Party's elites seems to have detracted from the attraction he once had with voters around the country as a governor who'd gladly defy the GOP establishment. However, this same popularity has amounted to big donor backing, increased party clout, and the broad popular support needed for winning over the White House in 2016.

While he seems to have won over the Republican billionaires who see his potential for attaining the presidency, Christie still has a long and steep hill to climb to win over conservative voters. A recent YouGov poll found that Christie is more popular with liberals (44% have a favorable opinion of him) than with conservatives (33% have a favorable opinion of him). While this bodes well for a presidential race in which Christie can lure swing voters, it works against him in a primary.

Christie's future political aspirations will involve paying attention to three big audiences including New Jersey, the Republican caucus, and swing voters across the nation. As a governor, he differs greatly from his potential primary opponents — being that he has a state to run. Every time he executes a policy, rejects a bill, or makes any other political move, the audiences will take notice and keep track. Depending on what he does, this can either help or hurt him.

In recent weeks, Christie approved edible forms of marijuana, vetoed a weapons ban, and decided to outlaw gay conversion therapy for minors in New Jersey. Pundits have examined each decision through a political lens, and they'll continue to study the impact it has on the lives of people in his state. While liberals may have favored his decision on the marijuana bill, the Conservative Christian right disapproved of his decision to outlaw gay conversion.

And so the balancing act continues.

Ultimately, the Republican voters will decide whether they want to see Christie run for president. If they hope to win back the White House in 2016, they may have to swallow some of their core ideas and values to nominate an opponent who gives them the best possibility to do it. While they may not necessarily like Christie, he could very well be their only saving grace when it comes to the party gaining back the Oval Office. 

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