And then there were 14.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today announced at his alma mater, Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey, that he is formally a candidate for president of the United States.
He will position himself as a blunt speaking candidate who has been unafraid to take on significant challenges in a state thought to be ungovernable. Christie will also highlight his support of small businesses in the Garden State.
"Among Chris Christie's talking points on the campaign trail will be that he has continuously vetoed tax hike proposals that would have hit New Jersey's business owners and millionaires. He slashed business taxes by more than $2 billion while reforming state pensions," says Jonathan Jaffe, managing principal at Jaffe Communications in Newark, and publisher of the Jaffe Morning Briefing, a daily newsletter that examines political developments in New Jersey.
"Meanwhile, New Jersey has had nine credit downgrades since Christie took office, and United Van Lines recorded a higher percentage of outbound customers in New Jersey (65 percent) than in any other state in the U.S. last year," says Jaffe, who adds that Christie is eager to show the party faithful that he is friendly to business.
"Is the state's struggling economy his fault? Of course not. But Christie is running for president based on his record in New Jersey," Jaffe notes.
Christie's 2015 budget summary, highlighted the fact that the New Jersey economy continued to grow in 2014, the fifth straight year of private sector job growth, and that preliminary numbers indicate that the state labor market added a total of 29,900 new private sector jobs over the 12 months ended in December 2014, 51 percent higher than the 19,800 new private sector jobs added in 2013.
Kennedy O'Brien, the Republican mayor of Sayreville, New Jersey, believes Christie makes a strong candidate because he has fought the "onerous taxes" that handcuff small businesses in the state.
Christie claims credit for $2.3 billion in business tax cuts and reforms since his fiscal 2012 budget. The governor boasts that he "tackled New Jersey's worst-in-the-nation business tax climate with tax cuts and reforms that had stalled in Trenton for years." Among the tax reforms were changes to a single sales factor formula that incentivizes businesses to invest in New Jersey and a 25 percent reduction in the minimum tax on S-corporations.
"There are a lot of opportunities for small business and initiatives that have been set up through the State of New Jersey's Business Portal," says O'Brien, who adds that the governor has been supportive of the development of Luxury Point in Sayreville, a 452-acre, mixed use waterfront project. "This type of economic development brings jobs to local economies."
Recent polls show that Christie's approval rating has plummeted to around 30 percent in his home state. Although he has made numerous trips across the country to gain political support and, of course, monetary donations, he is no longer a frontrunner. He trails in national polls behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
"Don't underestimate him," warns O'Brien, a longtime Christie supporter. "When he first ran in New Jersey, he trailed the pack but rose to the top."