Campus comments on governor's first year in office
As Gov. Chris Christie completed his first year as the governor of New Jersey yesterday, members of the University community reflected on his growth and transformation into a leader of the Garden State.
John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, said Christie achieved more than what many thought was possible and considered his first year in office a success.
"He got the legislature to enact the budget he wanted and reduced state spending in most areas," he said. "He has become the dominant force in New Jersey government to an extent that past governors have not been able to achieve in recent times."
Even though Christie's budget cuts received heated criticism, popularity is not always needed to be an effective leader, Weingart said.
"Public opinion is very divided. There are people who are enthusiastic to what he has done and there are people who are opposed," he said. "I'm not putting a value judgment on his policies. He has been a very effective leader at moving the debate."
Although Rutgers University Democrats President Chris Pflaum does not agree with many of Christie's policies, he respects the governor for keeping his word despite receiving backlash for certain policy decisions like the budget cuts.
"He is not afraid to shake things up or give his opinions," said Pflaum, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "He is a polarizing figure and you either love him or hate him. But either way, you have to respect him."
Christie did not just receive criticism for his policy decisions from the public sector but from prevalent senators in the state's government like Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Pflaum said. But this did not stop the governor from following through on his agenda.
"Some of the budget cuts he made I completely disagree with, but he did what he had to do, he had to do and I respect him for that," Pflaum said.
Rutgers College Republicans President Noah Glyn said what Christie accomplished during one year in office is nothing short of incredible, making his mark not only on the state but national landscape.
"He's a force to be reckoned with in politics," said Glyn, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "People are calling him a presidential candidate and that just shows how ready people are to hear someone who is honest and ready to lead."
Apart from being politically and rhetorically successful, Christie also made legislative strides during his first year in office and surprised many with his progress, Glyn said.
"People thought it would be impossible to balance the budget without raising taxes. Christie balanced the budget without raising a single tax," he said. "He is also looking to take on unfunded state employee benefits and pensions. He is doing a lot in his first term."
Even though Christie is a Republican in a historically Democratic state, this makes his success as governor even more incredible, Glyn said. This is the result of acting on policies rather than debating while not skipping around the truth.
"He isn't one to sit back and watch everything take its own course," he said. "He has been governor for one year and people are already talking about him running for president. That is incredible."
This type of vocal or rhetorical power differs greatly from past New Jersey governors, which is a major reason for Christie's success, Weingart said.
"[Jon S.] Corzine had particular difficulty in communicating clearly to a large audience," he said. "The contrast with Christie is now all the greater because he follows somebody who did not speak in sound bites and Christie is good at doing that."
By being transparent with voters throughout New Jersey, Christie gained popularity for keeping to his word and staying unaffected by criticism, Weingart said.
"It's a style that is very different from governors in the recent past in New Jersey," he said. "It is a different kind of personality and it has seemed to resonate at the present moment."
It is this type of personality and leadership style that helped Christie gain national recognition and support for a run for president in 2012, Pflaum said. This is something Pflaum does not foresee happening.
"I think Christie made a commitment to New Jersey and he has been a man of his word," he said. "So I think he will wait to finish a second term as governor before looking at the White House."
Weingart also said the chance of Christie running for president in 2012 is highly unlikely, especially when taking his age into account.
"He could run for president in 2028 and still be in his sixties," he said. "So I don't think he needs to do it now particularly if it is something he doesn't want to do."