Analysis: Christie's Impressive New Jersey Romp

Posted: Nov 06, 2013 5:05 PM

We dealt with the Virginia unpleasantness earlier (though one of the silver linings is looking better by the hour), so let's move on to New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie won a resounding re-election victory, crushing liberal Democrat Barbara Buono by 22 percentage points. She's pretty bitter about it, too. Overall, Christie surpassed the 60 percent threshold -- an exceptional feat in the Garden State, where no Republican has even cracked the 50 percent mark in a statewide race since 1988. The finalized exit polls provide a road map to Christie's dominant performance:

(1) The incumbent began by locking down his base, winning 86 percent of self-described conservatives and 93 percent of Republicans.

(2) He then won over large majorities of "moderates" and independents, carrying those groups (61/37) and (66/32), respectively.

(3) Christie solidified his extraordinary margin by wooing significant chunks of the Democrats' victory coalition. He picked off one-in-three Democrats, one-in-five black voters (including more than a quarter of black men), and effectively tied the youth vote (48/51). He carried low-income voters by five points.

(4) This item deserves its own bullet point: Chris Christie won a majority of Hispanics, representing an 18-point improvement over his 2009 win. He roughly doubled Mitt Romney's paltry share of the national Latino vote in 2012.

(5) Christie won women by 16 points. He carried men by 28 points.

(6) The governor prevailed in 19 of the state's 21 counties. He carried Camden and Union counties, each of which Barack Obama won last year by two-to-one margins. In Bergen county, where Obama beat Romney by 11, Christie cruised to a (60/38) victory.

In his victory speech, Christie essentially test drove his 2016 presidential message -- emphasizing the importance of leadership and underscoring his record of working with people from across the spectrum to get things done. His anti-Washington subtext wasn't subtle. If and when he runs for president, he'll do so by casting himself as an aggressive outsider and a doer:

It's important to note that none of Christie's gaudy re-elect stats guarantee anything in the future. For instance, the same exit polling quoted above shows him slightly trailing Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical New Jersey presidential match-up. (Then again, Christie's ability to compete in New Jersey may indicate that he'd in a decent position to win less solidly blue states like Pennsylvania). Also, his coattails weren't long enough to carry any State Senate seats from D to R. Some of his targeted races were close, but redistricting helped protect the status quo. The GOP did make marginal gains in the state Assembly. Nevertheless, his across-the-board dominance at the top of the ticket cannot be ignored, especially his strength among women and Hispanics. From a conservative perspective, Christie's record is a mixed bag and how he conducts his business and steers his agenda over the next two years will be fascinating to watch. Can he build on his momentum and carry his success over on a national level? Allahpundit sounds dubious, suggesting that Christie's big win is largely attributable to residual goodwill over his handling of Hurricane Sandy. Although that episode undeniably helped him in a major way, chalking the whole thing up to Sandy misses a few key points: First, Christie was remarkably popular among New Jersey voters prior to Sandy. Second, responding to major natural disasters are not automatic leadership layups for politicians. Just ask President Bush, Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin. Christie seized his opportunity, delivered a strong performance, and used it to win people over. That's a feature, not a bug. In any case -- love him or hate him -- it's undeniable that Chris Christie a political talent who is well positioned to be a formidable force in the next presidential cycle. Whether his Jersey style and record as an executive will play in other parts of the country remains to be seen. I'll leave you with my discussion of last night's results on Fox News earlier today. It's amazing how Democrats simply cannot bring themselves to admit that President Obama flat-out lied about Obamacare:

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