Christie hottest politician in the U.S., poll says

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tells a funny story about Ilene St. John Monday, July 29, 2013, in Morristown, N.J., at a ceremony naming the Morris County clerk of the board's office after Ilene St. John. St. John was the clerk when Christie was a Morris County Freeholder. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Could New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie possibly get any hotter?

Quinnipiac University “thermometer” numbers out Monday morning show that registered voters feel warmest about Christie and Hillary Clinton among the nation’s leading political figures.

Christie, presumed contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, rates 53.1 degrees on the scale, while the former first lady and secretary of state is second, with a rating of 52.1 degrees.

This comes as Christie engages in a highly public feud with libertarians in the GOP over foreign policy. The governor espouses a hawkish approach with support for federal collection of cell phone and internet “meta data” on millions of U.S. citizens by the security agencies. Libertarian Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, tap into the historic isolationist strain in the party and worry that the spying program violates Americans’ civil rights.

Brand-new Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was third at 49.2 degrees. For comparison, President Clinton clocks in at 47.6 degrees.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s score is not surprising given her lengthy political career and especially strong support among Democrats and women,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.  “But Gov. Christie’s rating is impressive given that  his experience – less than four years as governor – pales compared to Mrs. Clinton’ s resume.  What is interesting is that only two of the 22 figures rate better than the absolute middle of the scale, not exactly a ringing endorsement of the nation’s political establishment.”

Christie’s strength is his relatively high rating among independents and Democrats. Republicans rate him the eighth hottest leader, at 59.8 degrees – a step below former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who ran in the GOP primaries in 2012 and is a champion of social conservatives; Santorum scored 60 percent.

This would seem to indicate that Christie has some more outreach to do to the right wing of his party.

See this excellent story by my colleague Matt Katz, the Christie chronicler, about how 2016 overshadows the guv’s every move in his 2013 re-election campaign. In fact, Christie’s national ambition, Matt reports, is gaining traction as one of Democratic opponent Barbara Buono’s most resonant attack lines.