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Christie Reelection Landslide Sets Stage for Presidential Race

GOP governor equates ‘spirit of Sandy’ with bipartisanship in pitch to ‘a dispirited America’

Unofficial election results by county as of 2 a.m. Click for more information.

Ebullient over his 22-point reelection victory, Gov. Chris Christie ended one campaign and began another by equating the “spirit of Sandy” with the spirit of bipartisanship on an Asbury Park Convention Hall stage chosen to remind the nation of the performance under pressure that propelled him to the forefront of the race for the presidency in 2016.

"I know that tonight, a dispirited America, angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say, 'Is what I think is happening really happening?’” Christie asked, pausing as the crowd cheered. “Are people really coming together? … African-Americans and Hispanics, suburbanites and city dwellers, farmers and teachers? Are we really all working together?'

Gov. Chris Christie's victory celebration at the Asbury Park Convention Hall.
Gov. Chris Christie's victory celebration at the Asbury Park Convention Hall.

“Let me give the answer to everyone who is watching tonight, under this government our first job is to get the job done and as long as I'm governor, that job will always be finished!" Christie vowed in a speech delivered just two hours after piling up 60.5 percent of the vote in defeating Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) in a blue state that has not voted for a GOP presidential candidate in 25 years.

It was a “sound bite crafted for a national audience, that Washington needs to do what we do in New Jersey, and it sets Christie up as a national candidate,” said Ben Dworkin, director of Rider University’s Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics.

“If he chooses to run for president, the nation will like what it sees,” Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), who cochaired Christie’s 2009 campaign, said approvingly. Christie will get to hone his message for a national audience as chairman of the Republican Governors Association next year.

Christie polled 1,242,568 votes to Buono’s 781,710 and carried 19 out of 21 counties, including Buono’s home county of Middlesex. He lost only the Democratic bastions of Essex and Hudson, where ironically he received his highest-profile Democratic endorsements from Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson).

His 60.5 percent to 38 percent win fell well short of former Republican Gov. Thomas H. Kean’s 69 percent to 31 percent landslide in 1985 that flipped control of the state Assembly from Democratic to Republican. But Kean put his personal popularity on the line to campaign aggressively against an “obstructionist” Democratic Assembly.

Christie, however, often appeared side-by-side with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and other Democrats he worked with to pass overhauls of government spending caps, pensions, health benefits, and teacher tenure. While he put money into several Republican races in Bergen, Mercer and Middlesex counties, he drew the line at Route 195 and did not challenge Sweeney and South Jersey power broker George Norcross on their home turf.

Gubernatorial challenger Sen. Barbara Buono delivers her concession speech.
Gubernatorial challenger Sen. Barbara Buono delivers her concession speech.

Buono didn’t name names, but she used her concession speech to attack the “onslaught of betrayal” by elected and unelected party leaders who publicly and covertly helped Christie, insisting that “they didn’t do it for the state. They did it to help themselves politically and financially.”

But with Christie riding high in the polls and outspending Buono by $13.2 million to $3 million in the general election, even Buono allies ran ads touting their eagerness to work with Christie in a bipartisan way. The ads evidently worked.

“Chris Christie won all across the state, but Democratic legislators won all across the state too,” Dworkin noted. “Clearly, this was a personal victory for Christie, not for the Republican Party.”

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