Obligatory disclaimer: Though I'm generally a fan, I view Chris Christie's record in New Jersey as a mixed bag, and I realize that many grassroots conservatives loathe the guy. But a party that's gotten its butt kicked in the last two presidential cycles by appealing to a small and shrinking slice of the electorate ignores the numbers below at its peril. In the latest Quinnipiac poll of the Garden State's gubernatorial race, Christie has (re)-established a mammoth lead over hapless Democrat Barbara Buono among likely voters:
(1) Christie leads Buono overall 64-30, a staggering 34-point margin. He leads on the only two issues polled -- taxes and the economy -- by more than 40 percentage points apiece.
(2) The governor is attracting 35 percent of the Democratic vote, 69 percent of independents, and 94 percent of Republicans.
(3) Buono's supporters aren't especially thrilled with their candidate, with Christie enjoying a 22-point passion gap among those who are "very enthusiastic" about their choice.
(4) A poll out this week shows President Obama underwater nationally on personal favorability at -2 (47/49). In New Jersey, Christie's favorable rating is an astonishing +40 (67/27). He's at +40 with independents, +33 with women, and tied (44/44) among black voters.
(5) Christie leads by 43 points among men (69/26), is up 29 points with women (61/32), leads the white vote by 45 points (70/25), and even attracts 36 percent of the black voters. Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy digs deeper into that last data point:
While just 9 percent of African-American voters cast their ballots for the Republican in 2009, he currently earns 36 percent of the black vote, according to the new poll...To put that standing in recent historical perspective, no Republican presidential, Senate, or gubernatorial candidate in the state Jersey has topped 17 percent of the African-American vote in more than two decades.
Christie's secret? Forging alliances on issues like school choice, and making a genuine play for African-Americans' votes:
Margaret El, an African-American woman in her 60s, was about to sit down for a slice at Pizza Center on Main Street when Christie burst through the doors with a small entourage in tow. A registered Democrat who voted for President Obama twice, El served as a volunteer on Corzine’s 2009 campaign. Now, however, she is a Christie supporter. “How many Republicans are you going to see walking up and down these streets like this?” she said. “He’s approachable. I really like that. And I think the people in Orange are really thrilled, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, that he’s here.”
(6) New Jerseyans are split on whether the man they're poised to resoundingly re-elect should run for president in 2016. More say yes than no, however, and a majority believe a Christie candidacy would be good for the state.
(7) Christie may command a coattails effect in November, but this poll doesn't detect much of one. The vast majority of respondents say a Christie endorsement would not impact their down-ballot choices. I suggested over the summer that creating the most favorable conditions for a coattails effect may have influenced Christie's calculus in scheduling the special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
(8) Speaking of that special election, the race has tightened considerably, with strong conservative Steve Lonegan giving the truth-challenged and unaccomplished Cory Booker a real run for his money. One political handicapper has switched this race from "likely Democrat" to "lean Democrat."
(9) A final polling note: I wrote about Obama's flagging support yesterday. Two new polls out today confirm the downward trend: Gallup has him at 44/49 -- right in line with Bloomberg and NYT/CBS -- while Reuters has him at a miserable 39/55.