The Washington Times - September 17, 2013, 10:46AM

Buzz and intense fundraising have kept New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the presidential hopeful radar; he enjoys stable favorability numbers and a campaign war chest that now tops $9 million, with fundraising apparatus now set up in 50 states.

“He’s the hottest property in American politics and the most compelling personality thestate has produced since Tony Soprano. Polls say he is now the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination,” says Tom Moran, a columnist for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

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But Mr. Christie is overrated, he observes, noting that although the governor is a deft politician and deal maker, New Jersey’s economy is a mess, property taxes are up, poverty and crime levels are rising while the state’s credit rating is dropping. Mr. Moran predicts that his successor could inherit “a bigger mess” than he did.

“Christie is a better politician than he is a governor, that his fame is based on his personality, not his performance,” Mr. Moran says, noting that a Rutgers University poll released Friday finds that voters disapprove Mr. Christie’s job performance on jobs, the economy and education.

Yet 60 percent still love the guy.

“At town hall meetings, Christie is relaxed, funny and persuasive. He usually looks to pick a fight at the end, like an entertainer singing the crowd favorite as an encore. It’s compelling stuff,” Mr. Moran observes. “But it’s thin gruel, in the end. Because the substance doesn’t remotely measure up to the spin.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Christie still leads the roster of possible Republican presidential candidates - but not by much, according to CNN findings released Monday:

17 percent of Republicans favor Gov. Chris Christie as their party’s 2016 nominee for president; 28 percent of moderates and 8 percent of conservatives agree.

16 percent of Republicans overall favor Rep. Paul Ryan; 17 percent of moderates and 16 percent of conservatives agree.

13 percent overall favor Sen. Rand Paul; 6 percent of moderates and 16 percent of conservatives agree.

10 percent overall favor Jeb Bush; 8 percent of moderates and 11 percent of conservatives agree.

9 percent favor Sen. Marco Rubio; 7 percent of moderates and 11 percent of conservatives agree.

7 percent favor Sen. Ted Cruz; 7 percent of moderates and 7 percent of conservatives agree.

Source: A CNN/ORC survey of 1,022 U.S. adults