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Christie's Challenge: A Third of Iowa Republicans Dislike Him

Image: Faith And Freedom Coalition Holds Policy Conference

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference at the Omni Shoreham hotel June 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Led by the Christian political activist Ralph Reed, the coalition heard from conservative politicians who are courting religious conservatives as they eye a run for the White House. Getty Images

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie heads to Iowa Thursday, prompting another round of talk about his presidential ambitions, he faces a 2016 obstacle maybe as daunting as the “Bridge-gate” scandal rocking his administration: A sizable number of Republican voters there dislike him.

A third of Republicans in Iowa (33 percent) and New Hampshire (31 percent) view the GOP governor negatively, according to new NBC News/Marist polls of those two states.

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By contrast, half of Republicans in Iowa (50 percent) and New Hampshire (52 percent) view him positively.

Indeed, Christie’s negative numbers among Republicans in these two states are higher than all the other GOP presidential prospects the NBC/Marist poll tested:

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., gets a 66 percent-to-18 percent fav/unfav score in Iowa, and a 71 percent-to-15 percent rating in New Hampshire.
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sits at 63 percent positive, 18 percent in Iowa; and 65 percent positive, 20 percent negative in New Hampshire.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is at 57 percent positive, 13 percent negative in Iowa; and 58 percent positive, 10 percent negative in New Hampshire.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is at 44 percent positive, 11 percent negative in Iowa; and 50 percent positive to 7 percent negative in New Hampshire.
  • And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is at 44 percent positive, 19 percent negative in Iowa; and 50 percent positive, 14 percent negative in New Hampshire.

Conservative complaints about Christie aren’t new, and they pre-date the Bridge-gate scandal.

“Chris Christie promised to change New Jersey’s liberal Supreme Court. Five openings later, no change,” argues an advertisement running in Iowa by the group Judicial Crisis Network. “Instead a liberal Democrat for chief justice.”

Conservatives also criticized Christie’s embrace of President Barack Obama – right before the 2012 presidential election – after the damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Christie, who serves as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will attend fundraisers for Republican Gov. Terry Branstad in Iowa on Thursday. And he heads to New Hampshire on July 31.

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The NBC/Marist poll of Iowa was conducted July 7-13 of 392 Republicans, and it has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.9 percentage points.

The NBC/Marist poll of New Hampshire was conducted July 7-13 of 340 Republican voters, and it has a margin of error of plus-minus 5.3 percentage points.