Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, October 31, 2013
Unlike the New Jersey governor’s race four years ago, when then-Gov. Jon Corzine and Chris Christie were neck-and-neck in the polls during the weeks leading up to the election, Christie is all but guaranteed a victory on Tuesday night – and a big one at that. And at the end of the day that victory can essentially be boiled down to five key factors.
The biggest reason behind Christie’s inevitable victory is…you guessed it, Superstorm Sandy. The governor’s (and his navy blue fleece) largely lauded role in the state’s recovery efforts over the past year have kept his approval ratings above 60 percent and put him in a strong position for re-election. Recent polling has him leading challenger Barbara Buono nearly two-to-one in a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1988.
Perhaps learning from the mistakes made by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush when natural disasters struck under their watch, Christie made sure he was doing everything in his power to get the people of New Jersey back on his feet. He even skipped a key Mitt Romney rally in suburban Philadelphia less than 72 hours before Election Day to focus on the state’s relief efforts, much to the chagrin of national Republicans.
And, by all accounts, it looks like the people of the Garden State are willing to reward him for those efforts handily on Tuesday.
Christie’s success also comes as a result of his ability to walk the fine line between being a principled conservative and a pragmatic politician. He is not a card-carrying member of the Tea Party, yet Christie has amassed a surprisingly conservative track record when it comes to fiscal issues in the Garden State. Over the past four years he has passed a series of massive tax cuts while balancing the state’s budget three times. Christie was even able to get sweeping pension reforms through the state’s heavily Democratic state legislature to lower the fiscal burden of retirees on the state in years to come.
By the same token Christie hasn’t been afraid to buck the national party and even call it out when he feels it’s in the wrong. When the House GOP failed to vote on a bill to provide the state with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Sandy relief efforts before the end of the 112th Congress in January, Christie held a 45-minute press conference blasting House Speaker (and fellow Republican) John Boehner and his leadership colleagues by name.
“Last night, politics was placed before our oath to serve our citizens,” Christie said during the conference. “For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
He also expressed his disappointment at Washington politicians earlier this month when they failed to produce a budget deal before the Sept. 30 continuing resolution expired, resulting in a 17-day federal government shutdown.
“If I was in the Senate right now, I’d kill myself,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board. (The paper ultimately broke with tradition and endorsed him.) ”The president saw this train coming for a long time. All of a sudden today’s the first day he has anyone over to the White House? Same thing with the Speaker, same thing with the majority. They saw this train coming for a long time and did nothing to stop it.”
Christie has also always made it a priority to put the voters before the party, particularly when it comes to controversial issues like gun control and gay marriage. In August, the governor signed into law several new restrictions on firearms in the state, and recently dropped his challenge to the New Jersey Supreme Courtover the legality of same-sex marriage. Christie had previously vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature last year, arguing that the issue should be decided through a referendum and not politicians.
“An issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide,” the governor said in a statement at the time.
The last, and most overlooked, reason that Christie will win handily on Tuesday is that Buono’s campaign never took off. She struggled in fundraising early on, raising less than a quarter of what Christie did before accepting the state’s public matching funds offer. The national party has also kept its distance, instead choosing to focus its efforts on Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. Essentially, Buono has been a fish out of water the entire race, and never had a real chance to take down Christie from the get-go.
Many Republicans may scoff at the vociferous governor, but he’s about to do the unimaginable, and if there is anything to be said for that it is this: Perhaps the GOP should take a page from the Christie playbook and use it to keep the party competitive in future cycles to come.