Gay Marriage Decision Hurts New Jersey Gov. Christie With Conservatives

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) decision to abandon his legal fight against gay marriage has enraged social conservatives — and shows he’s betting a big reelection win next month matters more to his 2016 presidential ambitions than appealing to a religious base already leery of him.

That calculation will likely help him maintain a big lead heading into New Jersey’s Nov. 5 gubernatorial election. It takes away a major issue his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, has criticized him over during the campaign.

Most polls show Christie headed for a solid double-digit reelection win, which the governor needs to bolster his case to potential Republican primary voters that he is electable in Democratic states.

But by standing down on his gay marriage fight, Christie is also inviting risk. He has likely damaged himself with the evangelical voters who make up large parts of the Republican primary electorate in early-voting Iowa and South Carolina.

“He’s in a tough place with respect to winning the early primaries over this issue. But if he can get to a place like Florida, he’s going to look a lot better,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“He was in a tough position with social conservatives to begin with. He picked the lesser of the two evils on this. He’s saying ‘If I take care of New Jersey right now, 2016 will take care of itself.’ ”

Read more from Cameron Joseph and Alexandra Jaffe at The Hill

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