Do Chris Christie and Sarah Palin have the same appeal? Photographer: Patrick Semansky/Bloomberg
Do Chris Christie and Sarah Palin have the same appeal? Photographer: Patrick Semansky/Bloomberg

Let's start with the caveats: It’s one poll. It’s from one subsample. It’s not a huge effect. It could easily just be statistical noise.

Still, I can’t help noting that a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s ratings going up among “Core Republicans” following the terrible publicity he received from the bridge scandal. In October 32 percent had a favorable view of him; now he’s up to 42 percent with positive feelings (via the always invaluable Political Wire).

If true (and again: see caveats above), it’s a fascinating finding, confirming that for at least some non-trivial group of Republicans, all a politician has to do to win their favor is to get attacked by anyone outside of the conservative bubble.

Which is, to put it bluntly, pathetic.

But it does suggest -- at least a little -- the appeal of a Sarah Palin or a Herman Cain, or the reason that Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann count as "Real Conservatives," while Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are inches away from being RINOs. Or, for that matter, the continuing appeal of Newt Gingrich to some conservatives despite his frequent and major deviations on public policy over the years. If the core credential for being a Real Conservative is to be attacked (by liberals? by the “neutral” news media? by prosecutors?), then demagogues, charlatans and the inept have a real advantage over responsible, competent politicians. Which really is a problem for the Republican Party, but beyond that, is an even more important problem, I would think, for actual ideological conservatives -- that is, people who care about public policy and ideology, as opposed to being purely concerned with tribal allegiances.

Again: It’s 10 points among one subset of respondents to one poll. But I think it fits remarkably well with lots of other evidence about the successes of both radicals and frauds in the Republican Party over the last few years.

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Bernstein at Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net.