As a personal victory, Christie’s reelection is more impressive than Kean’s 1985 victory over Democrat Peter Shapiro, said Bob Grady, a senior adviser in the Christie campaign who was also one of the chief architects of Kean’s landslide in which he carried all but three of New Jersey’s then-566 municipalities.
“Politics in this country is much more partisan today than it was 28 years ago, which makes Chris Christie’s ability to capture Democratic and independent votes that much more significant,” said Grady. “This shows what you can do if you focus on the big things like the economy, creating jobs, pension reform, cutting taxes, and better schools. African-American and Hispanic voters care about those issues, not the side issues Buono campaigned on.”
Grady said Christie and Kean are “more similar than people think.” Like Kean, Christie started campaigning for minority votes from his first days in office, going to Newark to visit North Ward Democratic leader Steve Adubato at his model charter school.
According to exit polls, Christie ended up winning 21 percent of the African-American vote, 51 percent of Hispanics, two-thirds of independent voters, one-third of Democrats, 46 percent of union voters, and 56 percent of women, even though Democrats ran an all-woman ticket for governor and lieutenant governor.
Christie recalled during his speech that when “we came into office four years ago, we said people were tired of politics as usual and promised to go to Trenton and turn it upside down … We showed that it is possible to put working together first, to stand for principle, and still get things done.”
“If we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., will see what’s possible,” he said. “In New Jersey, we still fight, we still yell, but when we fight, we fight for things that really matter in people’s eyes.”
What matters to New Jerseyans – and what matters to him, Christie said – is “to make sure everyone in New Jersey affected by Sandy is returned to normalcy in life. I will not let anyone, anything, any governmental entity, any political force get between me and completion of my mission.” Just as the mission “of a soldier is no one is ever left behind on the battlefield,” he said, “on the battlefield Sandy turned this state into, New Jerseyans will never leave anyone behind.”
As triumphant as Christie’s reelection celebration was in front of hundreds of cheering supporters at the Jersey Shore, Buono’s subdued gathering in a small restaurant-bar in her hometown of Metuchen was bittersweet.
Based on exit polls, CNN called the race for Christie at 8:00 p.m., just as the polls closed, and Buono waited only 45 minutes before making her concession speech. She pulled few punches, criticizing the Democratic bosses and saying she was served up as a long-shot candidate against a popular governor, only to be spurned by the very party she served. “I took one for the team, only to realize too late that there was no team,” she said,
Buono’s abandonment by the party was a recurring theme among her supporters last night, and a few who watched from the sidelines, too. “The Democrats could have come together,” said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), one of the few notable Democratic names to attend Buono’s event. “That would have been nice for a change.” As for the Democratic party going forward, Holt said: “There is some rebuilding to do. Some of the prodigal Democrats have to come back in line.”
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), one of Buono’s earliest and staunchest supporters, was less critical of his own party, saying the odds were long from the start given Christie’s popularity post-Sandy. “A lot of people were looking at the aftermath of Sandy, and not their future in the next four years,” he said. “I think the Democratic Party remains strong and worked hard to get her elected. Some obviously didn’t, but I think the party comes out of this still strong.”