Chris Christie for 2012. When most Americans first think of the New Jersey governor, his positions are not the first thing that comes to mind, a point made painfully apparent this week as numerous comedians poked fun at the politician's considerable, ahem, heft.

But with the results of a recent Rasmussen poll that show Christie doing well against President Barack Obama in a general election, with the governor carrying 43% to Obama's 44% of the likely votes, Americans may be paying more attention to his policies than it seems.

With issues of prime concern for conservative voters, Christie is both less extreme than Perry and Bachmann and less moderate than Romney, making him both somebody to rally behind and somebody to challenge an increasingly moderate president.

Here are some of his positions on the big issues for 2012.

Abortion

Position: Strongly Opposed

Consistency: Shift from Pro Choice to Pro Life

In 1996, Christie said that he was pro-choice, but has since said that he opposes abortion and wants to restrict it.

Christie opposes abortion and wants to restrict it, but hasn't made it an issue since becoming governor. He supports a law requiring parental notification before minors can get an abortion, a 24-hour waiting period, and has eliminated a state budget line for reproductive health care, including birth control. Marie Tasy, the executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, backed Christie's candidacy in 2009.

Notable Quote: [When he heard his daughter's heartbeat:] It was at that moment that it became clear to me that being on the sideline on this issue was not something I could live with. I needed to speak out in favor of a very simple idea, that that child is a life that deserves protection.

Illegal Immigration

Position: Moderately Opposed

Consistency: Shift from Indifferent to Against Illegal Immigration

In 2008, Christie was more lenient on the issue of illegal immigration. Being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime, he told The Newark Star-Ledger, saying that the whole phrase of 'illegal immigrant' connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime.

On Tuesday night, however, Christie criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for signing a bill that granted in-state tuition rates at the University of Texas to illegal immigrant students.

He said that the U.S. had a serious immigration problem, and that undocumented persons, were, in fact, criminals, calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to do their jobs.

Notable Quote:  I do not believe that, for the people who came here illegally, that we should be subsidizing, with taxpayer money, through in-state tuition, their education... Let me be very clear, from my perspective, that is not a heartless position. That is a common-sense position.

Gun Owner's Rights

Position: Moderately In Favor

Consistency: Consistently Favors Some Restrictions on Gun Rights

Most Republican activists are loud defenders of the Second Amendment-based unlimited right to own and carry guns. Christie, however, takes the middle ground.

In 2009, Christie opposed a law signed by Jon Corzine which limited the number of handguns that can be legally purchased in New Jersey in one month.

He supported another New Jersey law, however, that bars most people from carrying concealed handguns. Last December, the NRA praised Christie for commuting the prison sentence of a New Jersey man convicted of possession of firearms without a carry permit, who had been transporting his unloaded guns in his trunk.

In general, Christie believes that gun control laws should be handled by states, not by the federal government.

Last December the NRA praised Christie for commuting the prison sentence of a New Jersey man, Brian Aitken, who had been convicted of illegal possession of firearms for not having a carry permit when transporting his unloaded guns in the trunk of his car.

Greenhouse Gas Cuts

Position: Moderately In Favor

Consistency: Shift from Emissions Cutter to Alternative Energies Supporter

Until recently, Christie was a proponent of cutting back greenhouse gas emissions.

In May, he announced New Jersey's withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a ten-state compact to reduce emissions via cap-and-trade. He claimed that the RGGI did not have enough funds to make a legitimate difference, and served mainly to tax citizens unnecessarily.

He has been criticized by David Pringle, the campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, a group that backed his candidacy in 2009.

He is, however, still a proponent of alternative energies, a significant difference from most conservative candidates, and has signed a law to offer tax credits and other incentives for businesses that support offshore wind projects.

Notable Quote: I'm certainly not a scientist, which is the first problem. So I can't claim to fully understand all of this, certainly not after just a few months of study. But when you have over 90 percent of the world's scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it's time to defer to the experts.

Taxes

Position: Strongly Opposed

Consistency: Very Consistently In Favor of Tax Cuts

Christie supports reducing the personal income tax and restoring property relief tax for everyone. He wants to eliminate special interest tax breaks, such as those for labor unions, and believes a 2/3 majority vote should be in place in order to impose a new tax or increase existing taxes.

Christie made cutting taxes a key part of his 2009 platform, and proposed a budget for $690 million in tax cuts in 2011. While he didn't raise state taxes, however, he did make extensive revisions and reductions to a program that once provided residents with local property tax rebate checks.

Notable Quote: We can and we must lower taxes.

Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions

Position: Moderately In Favor

Consistency: Consistently Supports Civil Unions, Opposes Marriage


When he ran in 2009, Christie supported civil unions but opposed legalizing same-sex marriage. Since then, he has held by his original position.

Christie argues that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and is favor of a constitutional amendment to that effect, but also believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to have the same rights under the law.

He is unusual among conservative voters opposed to same-sex marriage in that he does not believe homosexuality is a sin.

Notable Quote: Well, my religion says it's a sin. But for me, I've always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual. And so I think if someone is born that way it's very difficult to say then that's a sin. But I understand that my Church says that but for me personally I don't look at someone who is homosexual as a sinner.

Power of Judiciary

Position: Strongly Opposed

Consistency: Consistently For Judicial Restraint

Christie lines up with other prominent conservatives in viewing the State and U.S. Supreme Courts as bodies which have overstretched their boundaries and subverted American people's right to govern themselves.

When he ran in 2009, Christie was sharply critical of the power exercised by the New Jersey state Supreme Court, and refused to re-appoint Justice John Wallace, a Democrat and the only African-American justice on the court.

Some of have accused Christie of a court-packing plan based on excessive judicial restraint. He has succeeded in getting one nominee, Anne Patterson, confirmed to the court.

Notable Quote: My problem is that the Supreme Court in this state has seen itself as a superior branch of government, not a coequal branch of government... They are not a superior branch of government.