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News Analysis: Christie trailing behind, but still has shot at 2016 GOP nomination

By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- While U.S. State of New Jersey' s Governor Chris Christie is behind in the polls, he still has a shot at clinching the Republican Party's nomination to face the Democratic candidate in the 2016 race for the White House.

Known for his bombastic and in-your-face style, the governor is now five spots behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, toward whom many donors are flocking. While recent weeks have not been good to Christie, he has not yet been counted out in this early stage in the election season.

"Recent campaign stumbles plus Jeb's early fundraising prowess have really squeezed Christie. That said, Christie's retail campaign skills and raw ambition in addition to Jeb being untested on the campaign trail mean Christie is still alive," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

Indeed, any candidate could fall flat on his or her face in the lead-up to 2016, which has happened to many promising candidates in past elections throughout U.S. history.

Moreover, Christie is a firebrand behind the podium, giving any adversary a formidable challenge.

"Christie always has a shot and here's why: he's the best retail politician of the group. When he's on the stump, he's just flat out better than the rest of the group," O'Connell said.

"And something else Christie has going for him while Jeb is out building a billion dollar balloon, what people don't realize is that Jeb is untested on the campaign trail," he added.

But while Christie's sharp tongue has helped him score points with some voters, it has backfired on him in some cases.

"Getting into heated arguments with average folks in open view is not a good political strategy. It is better to deflect critical questions than get into shouting matches or snide putdowns with typical voters," Brookings Institution's senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

U.S. media has reported that Christie has gotten into arguments during public speaking engagements with hecklers and protesters.

Still, there is no clear front-runner so far in the Republican camp, and new candidates could emerge to surprise analysts, Washington watchers and pundits.

Certainly, Republicans need a candidate with solid star power to match the international celebrity of former first lady and the Obama administration's former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Democrats' likely nominee.

As foreign policy is expected to play a major role in the 2016 race, Christie will likely come out tough against terrorism, and analysts say Democrats are intimidated by Christie's ability to connect with voters when he appears in person.

Often in U.S. presidential races, candidates emerge stronger and more confident after defeating a slew of rival candidates and clinching their party's nomination. The process also gives candidates the chance to tweak their style, strengthen their message and improve how they relate to the public, analysts said.

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