New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie entered the otherwise sunny July 4th holiday under a cloud of scrutiny. Over the long weekend, photos emerged of him sitting on a foldout chair on a public beach — a beach that had been closed amid budget negotiations, making it off limits to everyone but his family and friends.
This could explain why a Chris Christie sand sculpture appeared on the Jersey Shore on Independence Day, showing the governor in the same lounging, baseball-capped pose he was spotted in on the beach thanks to photographs taken by aerial drone.
The images of Gov. Christie lounging on a public beach as it was unavailable to regular New Jersey residents have been widely criticized. He is currently the least-popular governor in the entire country, with a Quinnipiac poll in June finding him with just a 15 percent approval rating, a 55-point slide since his 70 percent post-reelection peak.
Some of the only governors in modern history who've been less popular have actually been convicted of crimes, like former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. With Christie's tenure set to end in 2018, thanks to term limits, he looks like he'll leave public life at as sharp a low-point with the public as ever before.
Although, when you get an eyeful of the sandcastle version of Christie, he certainly doesn't look stressed.
To the contrary, he looks downright chilled-out and ready for good times, despite the presence of a sharp-toothed sand shark sitting right next to him. It's unclear just how much time it took to craft this virtuoso bit of trolling ― the sculptors passed on detailing the governor's legs, letting his lower body simply taper off into the sand ― but it popped up on the Jersey Shore during the July 4th holiday.
Under usual political circumstances, this kind of politically charged sand sculpture might've drawn the ire of some Republican beach-goers, eager to defend the man they twice elected governor of the Garden State. Even President Donald Trump, who's had an unprecedentedly unpopular young presidency and is intensely polarizing, is beloved enough by some of his base that building a mocking sculpture on a public beach might draw outcry.
But Trump is more than twice as popular nationally as Christie is in New Jersey, which is a simply staggering point of reference for understand how disliked he's become. Even his lieutenant governor, Republican Kim Guadagno, blasted him after the beach photos went viral, clearly looking ahead to her own gubernatorial bid coming this November. In part thanks to Christie's basement-level approval ratings, Guadagno's chances of succeeding him look extremely slim.
Christie, for his part, did not express any regret about the controversial beach trip, nor did he admit there was anything problematic shown in the photo of him lounging on the closed-off stretch of shoreline. Christie has refused to apologize, and stressed that being right next to his residence, he had the right to be there for a holiday get-together with his family:
I don't apologize for it. I don't back away from it. ... Let's be really clear. That's our residence and we have a right to be there whenever we want to be there.
In the immediate aftermath of the beach trip, Christie was asked by the media whether he'd gotten any sun that day. Christie answered no, and after the photos went public proving the contrary, a spokesperson said it was true that he hadn't gotten any sun ― because he was wearing a baseball cap at the time.