Chris Christie won a resounding victory on Tuesday, earning re-election in deeply Democratic New Jersey with 60 percent of the vote.
The exit polls of the race contain loads of good news for the governor. Christie dominated his Democratic opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono, among most demographic and income groups. Notably, he even bested her by 13 percent among women, and won a narrow 51 percent majority of Latino voters. This all bodes very well for Christie’s oft-rumored presidential ambitions.
Beneath the surface of his 22-point landslide, however, there are some warning signs for the popular governor and his party. Buono defeated Christie 51 to 49 percent among voters 18-29 years old, reflecting the Republican Party’s ongoing struggles among young voters. Christie’s overall success did not filter down to the Republicans running further down the ballot; Democrats did not lose a single seat in the state Senate, and lost only one seat in the state Assembly (Republican Sam Fiocchi defeated incumbent Democrat Nelson Albano by fewer than 1,300 votes in the 1st district).
Although voters view Christie favorably by a 64 to 33 percent margin, they view the Republican Party negatively, 39 to 57. Voters also approve of President Obama’s job performance, 51 to 49 percent, and blame congressional Republicans over the president for the government shutdown by a 56 to 39 percent margin. In other words, Christie didn’t solve the GOP’s problems in New Jersey; he simply overcame them.
New Jersey voters also overwhelmingly approved a ballot question that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour. Christie had vetoed the state legislature’s previous attempt to raise the minimum wage, and strongly opposed the proposition that passed yesterday with nearly 61 percent support.
Finally, despite Christie’s overwhelming victory, there is reason to doubt that he could win his home state in a potential presidential campaign. Exit polls found that Hillary Clinton would defeat Christie 48 to 44 percent in a head-to-head matchup for president. While that may not be a shocker in a state that President Obama won by 17 percent in 2012, the fact that Christie could not outpoll Clinton on the night of his greatest electoral triumph somewhat blunts the narrative that he is a Republican who could expand the GOP’s electoral map to include blue states.
There’s no question that Christie was one of election night’s biggest winners, and that he cemented himself as a top contender for the presidency. But while Tuesday’s election told us that Christie is popular enough in New Jersey to pummel a little-known opponent on the way to a second term, it also provided reason to doubt the overheated claims that Christie could compete in 40 states if he chooses to run in 2016.
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