View Count: 136 |  Publish Date: August 30, 2013
Christie Runs Up Vote, Faces Partisan Pivot Others Missed
By Elise Young - 2013-08-30T04:00:01Z
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie,strolling the Wildwood boardwalk for 90 minutes, belonged toanyone who wanted to gab about Hurricane Sandy rebuilding orrazz him about his beloved New York Mets baseball team.
“How you doing?” said Christie, pausing every few stepson Aug. 27 to smile for mobile-phone photos. Vacationers greetedhim as “governor.” He insisted: “Chris.”
Ten weeks before an election in which he has a 20percentage-point lead over Democratic state Senator Barbara Buono, Christie is seeking to run up the margin and use a blow-out victory to advance his position in a crowded field ofprospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates.
It’s a strategy that’s been employed before; PresidentGeorge W. Bush’s 1998 re-election in Texas with a landslide 69percent of the vote sent some of his potential Republicanprimary challengers to the sidelines.
Yet Christie, 50, faces an added hurdle: he must take a winin a blue state -- New Jersey voters backed Democrats in thelast six presidential contests -- and convert that into momentumin a Republican primary. That’s a partisan pivot that hastripped up presidential hopefuls in the past.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who ran in the 2008Republican primary, had a 14-point lead over his challengers inan October 2007 Gallup poll. That advantage vanished whenRepublican primary voters who disagreed with his stances onabortion rights and other issues began casting votes in January2008. Giuliani, after losing in three early primaries, ended hiscandidacy on Jan. 30, 2008. General Election
A home-state partisan disconnect can also haunt a candidatewho wins the party’s nomination. Republican Mitt Romney, whocaptured his colleagues’ backing only to lose the generalelection, was defeated by President Barack Obama in heavilyDemocratic Massachusetts -- and New Hampshire and California,also states where he has residences. In the 2000 presidential,the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t have been able to declare Bushthe victor if Democratic nominee Al Gore had won his Republican-trending home state of Tennessee.
Those unsuccessful candidacies would provide clues forChristie about charting his course after the re-election race.
“That fact that Governor Christie is pro-life and MayorGiuliani is pro-choice is indicative of some differences on theRepublican side that would be a factor in the nomination,” saidEdward Cox, chairman of the New York State Republican Party.Christie, as governor, also has put “in place Republicanpolicies that have promoted” the state’s economy, he said. Regular Guy
Securing a major re-election victory also will have someadvantages. Appearing at “sports venues and middle-class beachresort walks promote a regular-guy image that works as well inthe state as it does nationally,” said Ross Baker, a political-science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NewJersey.
“He is not going to be tagged as an out-of-touch elitistlike Romney,” Baker said.
Still, Christie’s unconventional style and penchant forblunt statements create risks that he will be tagged with othermonikers that could become primary drags.
The day before Christie kicked off a week of boardwalk andbeach stops, he appeared on Aug. 26 as a co-host on a sportsradio talk show on WFAN, during which he called a New York DailyNews reporter an “idiot” for his questioning of New York JetsCoach Rex Ryan. The newspaper responded by calling the governor“fatso” on its front page the next day. Jerks, Numbnuts
Christie has called his Democratic opponents in the statelegislature a “joke,” a “jerk” and “numbnuts,” and wasfilmed last year calling a heckler “tough guy” on the Seasideboardwalk. In 2011, he urged reporters to “take the bat out”on a 76-year-old female senator for collecting both a publicpension and a paycheck as a legislator while criticizing othersfor similar practices.
In February, Christie called a former White House doctorwho said he was dangerously overweight a “hack” and said sheshould “shut up” unless she examines him. That same month, hehad secret gastric-band surgery to help him shed pounds. Hedenied that the move was tied to his political aspirations.
“New Jerseyans have come to accept that that’s what youget with Governor Christie: someone who is very direct andblunt,” said Krista Jenkins, director of Fairleigh DickinsonUniversity’s PublicMind polling center in Madison, New Jersey.“When you think of 2016, the first thing you have to thinkabout is not so much how his persona is going to play with thegeneral electorate, it’s how he’s going to play with theRepublican base.” Disaster Relief
The governor has also rubbed party activists and leaderswrong for his willingness to work with Democrats and fight forfederal disaster relief money without corresponding cuts.
Christie, who introduced Romney at the Republican NationalConvention a year ago, stopped campaigning for him as HurricaneSandy bore down, then struck the New Jersey coast on Oct. 29.Obama arrived for a tour of the devastation three days later andthe governor greeted him with an embrace.
“Christie could have easily said, ’We welcome you, Mr.President. We need your support and we’re counting on you tohelp us during this difficult time,’” said Lee Miringoff,polling director for Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.“Instead he broke into a paraphrase of the Gershwins: ’You’rewonderful. You’re marvelous.’”
Some Republicans also were aggrieved when he criticizedU.S. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other Republicans inthe chamber for delays in approving federal storm assistance. Sandy’s Billions
In the Jersey Shore town of Sea Bright on Aug. 28, thegovernor encouraged a crowd “to take advantage” of the state’sshare of the $50.5 billion in Sandy aid approved by Obama.
“There’s no shame in coming forward and getting thishelp,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve done for otherstates when they’ve suffered similar disasters, and it’s NewJersey’s turn to use every resource at our disposal torecover.”
New Jersey expects to spend $36.9 billion to rebuild andprevent damage from future storms. Christie, the firstRepublican elected New Jersey governor since 1997, gained recordapproval ratings in polls for his handling of Sandy, and hasstaked his re-election on the recovery.
Christie’s presence on the boardwalk this week was anindirect way to remind voters of that work.
At a stop in Long Branch, he was well-tanned, wearingkhakis, a Princeton University golf shirt and white sneakers. Heshook hands with Al Tobin, a 62-year-old sales manager from TomsRiver.
“Seventy days, baby,” the governor told him, referring tothe countdown to Election Day, Nov. 5.
“I’m talking about ’16,” Tobin responded. Christiereplied: “My mother taught me first things first, Al. We gottado what we gotta do, right?”
To contact the reporter on this story:Elise Young in Trenton at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:Stephen Merelman at

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