Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press
In this Oct. 11, 2013, file photo, Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky. speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action in Washington.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has seen a major drop in approval stemming from scandals that have plagued the 2016 presidential hopeful, according to a new Fox News Poll released Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.

The poll asked whether or not Christie had a "strong future" in the Republican Party. Among Republicans, Christie plummeted 22 percentage points since December 2012. As well, independents have gone from 52 percent thinking he has a "strong future" to 32 percent.

Christie’s current mêlée leaves the GOP with the question of whether or not an establishment favorite can compete for the nomination, according to the National Journal, and if not, then who? “What is certain is that if Christie can't run, or is severely weakened, the managerial wing that has usually picked the party's nominee may find itself without a true horse,” wrote Ronald Brownstein.

John Weaver, the chief strategist for John McCain in 2008, believes the Christie scandal leaves the potential for a political vacuum, according to Brownstein. “We see an ascendency of the populist, libertarian, nationalistic wing, which is probably a little stronger than it has ever been in the modern era," Weaver said.

The Atlantic says in Peter Beinart’s column, Rand Paul is the 2016 Republican frontrunner, “If Chris Christie was ever the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, he isn’t anymore. So if Christie is no longer the candidate to beat in the 2016 Republican race, who is? Believe it or not, it’s Rand Paul.”

The Republican mainstream may be warming to the idea of a Paul nomination. “It’s just possible that 2016 could be another 1964 or 1980,” Beinart wrote, “years when the Republican establishment proved weak and pliable enough to allow a candidate previously considered extreme to come in from the cold.”

Christie has certainly stumbled in the polls, but it will be interesting to see if he indeed did ruin his chances of garnering the nomination, enhancing the prospects of a libertarian wing candidate like Paul.

Erik Raymond is experienced in national and international politics. He relocated from the Middle East where he was working on his second novel. He produces content for You can reach him at: