Are Chris Christie’s Social Security Ideas Hurting His Chance at 2016?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) is ready for two things: He’s ready to run for president, and he’s ready to talk about issues that might not make him very popular. However, that doesn’t mean Americans are ready for Christie. In particular, it doesn’t mean they’re ready for his Social Security plan, which has a number of components, only some of them likely to appeal to the audience he’s aiming at.

Most politicians looking at the 2016 election are looking to gain the support of middle-class Americans. The message is mostly the same across the board — for Democrats and Republicans alike. The American dream is dying; we have to save the economy and improve the lives of struggling families, patriotism, immigration, ISIS, etc. What’s different is the method each candidate is willing to publicly endorse at this point in the game. Some candidates are being general about their policy preferences and plans — especially those that have the luxury because they don’t currently hold an office. Saying general things about policy can result in criticism, but that can only so far, and more often it gets the key words out there with a overall feeling aimed to appeal to a certain group of constituents, but not so specific it has alienated or split voters that might otherwise be open to that candidate.

Christie, however, has gotten quite specific about his plans for retirement and reforming Medicare and Medicaid, and they aren’t likely to win over the support he so badly needs. First, let’s take a look at how he fairs in 2016 polls and at his new policy plans and how they may alienate certain groups of voters.

Compared to what is likely to be the biggest Democratic opponent in the presidential race — Hillary Clinton — Real Clear Politics gives him an average of 39.5% support to Clinton’s 48.8%. Stacked up against his fellow Republicans though, he doesn’t fair so well. He’s eighth in the ranking, on RCP’s average of polls from Fox, ABC/Washington Post, PPP, and CNN/ORC.

What’s more, Christie’s polling results have been steadily been decreasing since 2013, when he was at the head of the pack. This is possibly a result of the George Washington Bridge closure (Bridgegate) or his handling of the Ebola scare, but one thing is for sure, his numbers haven’t been going up. Particularly problematic for the governor is his ratings with members of his own party.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed 57% of Republicans saying they would not support him in a 2016 campaign, worse than any of the other candidates with the exception of Donald Trump (who doesn’t really count). In March he headed for New Hampshire — an important election state — but even there he did not do well, with a Suffolk University survey showing him as the fifth preferred Republican candidate, according to New Even on home turf, in his state of New Jersey, he doesn’t have a majority of voters support, according to a Rutgers Poll, showing 69% of voters who do not believe he’d be a good president.

His latest plan for Medicare and Medicaid isn’t likely to help his cause with the elderly or the middle class, though parts of it will likely be swallowed with more ease than others. Perhaps the most problematic aspect is his desire to increase the Social Security retirement age from what will soon be 67 to 69, and up early retirement to 64 from 62.

This is unlikely to be a popular move, as it forces those who can ill afford retirement on their own to stay in the workforce longer. To take the edge off, he wants to cut payroll taxes completely once you hit the age of 62. Sadly this doesn’t actually help your average worker as much as it helps the wealthy, because in the past it has been pay and not age that has decided how long you pay social security, with wealthier citizens paying more.

On the other hand, there is also the proposed change to how Social Security is given to retirees, and that might be more popular with middle-class Americans. He would make it so that higher earners would receive fewer benefits — or even receive nothing at all back, particularly in the $80,000 or more to $200,000 or more per year groups. He has said that a similar reform would be useful for Medicaid as well as Medicare. This plan is not going to be popular with Republicans. The plan does target the wealthy and force them to pay more, while also giving them less back when they retire — something that should be attractive to middle-class and poorer Americans. But it also increases the age of retirement, and that’s going to be unpopular across political parties.

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS

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