As New Jersey voters went to the polls on Election Day, there were those who questioned whether the race at the top of the ticket could even be considered a “race.” The gubernatorial contest, which ordinarily would be replete with intrigue and suspense, was totally devoid of any drama. The race for governor was, for all intents and purposes, over before it even began.
Riding a wave of popularity that propelled him to rock-star-like status, Governor Chris Christie garnered 60% of the vote and easily cruised to a 22-point victory over Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono. In doing so, Christie became the first Republican in New Jersey in 25years to get over 50% of the vote in a statewide election.
As for Barbara Buono, she found herself in the unenviable position of being in a political Catch-22. She had virtually no name recognition and therefore had difficulty raising money, yet without adequate funds she was unable to boost her profile statewide.
What makes Governor Christie’s colossal win so remarkable is that he achieved this historic feat in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republican voters by a whopping 700,000. Despite the enrollment advantage that Democrats have in this overwhelmingly “blue state,” Christie scored an easy victory.
In retrospect, it appears that Christie fared extremely well among voting groups that tend to favor Democratic candidates, rather than Republicans.
According to the exit polls, 57% of women voted for Christie, versus just 41% for Buono; 21% of African-Americans, a group that traditionally favors Democrats, cast their ballots for Christie, a noteworthy number considering that when he ran in 2009, only 9 % of African-American voters supported him, and in an extraordinary show of support from Hispanic voters, who typically vote Democratic, Christie got an astounding 50% of the vote. Christie also did extremely well among independent and moderate voters, union members, and young voters. Even 33% of Democratic voters cast their ballots for the Republican governor.
How did Governor Christie perform so well among voting groups that customarily back Democrats? How is it that the Republican candidate turned the gubernatorial contest on its head by running so strong across the board?
Chris Christie bucked conventional wisdom by very skillfully and deliberately building a broad bipartisan coalition that swept him to victory. He successfully cultivated strong relationships and alliances with various constituent groups that generally tune out Republicans. Christie masterfully assembled a groundswell of support that was just too much for Buono to overcome.
It is quite clear that Chris Christie is not your typical politician. The popular governor is a “tell it like it is,” “say what he thinks” type of person, and it certainly appears that the overwhelming majority of New Jersey voters appreciate his outspoken and brash personality and actually find it refreshing.
In addition, New Jersey residents cannot forget the fact that Governor Christie was there for them as they struggled to pick up the pieces after Superstorm Sandy. The images of a concerned, caring and courageous Chris Christie consoling storm victims were extremely powerful and they undoubtedly left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of New Jersey voters.
On Election Day, Chris Christie did not just win a second term as governor; he catapulted to the front of the pack of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Christie’s record-breaking win sent a loud and clear message to the national Republican Party that he just may be their guy in 2016. The crossover appeal that he demonstrated in New Jersey may be exactly what the Republicans are looking for as they struggle to overcome a barrage of negative publicity relative to the Tea Party movement’s rise within their ranks.
The recent government shutdown in Washington, D.C., adversely impacted the Republican Party’s desperate attempts to get back on track. Many people placed the blame for the shutdown squarely on the GOP and the consensus tends to be that the conservative arm of the Republican Party forced the hand of their congressional leaders and essentially boxed them into a corner.
With his inimitable style, Chris Christie may be the cure for what ails the national Republicans. The question is, however, whether Christie’s unique brand of bipartisanship outreach will resonate with more conservative voters throughout the nation. It also remains to be seen how Christie will fare in the context of a national Republican campaign if and when the ultra-conservatives who may be angling for the GOP presidential nomination, such as Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, try to paint him in a more liberal light.
With his celebrity status and widespread appeal, Chris Christie has definitely claimed his spot on the national stage. The question is how well he will do as the GOP’s guy in the spotlight.
On Election Day, Chris Christie swept into the governor’s office for his second term with a powerful mandate that is virtually unprecedented. The meteoric rise of a Republican governor is something that one would expect to see in a “red state,” not in an overwhelmingly Democratic “blue state.” Chris Christie, however, has proven that there can be shades of “red” amidst a sea of “blue.”
N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and a principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at TroodlersTake.blogspot.com, www.PaulReverePR.com, or www.JewishWorldPR.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: _troodler
By: N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.