(CNN) - Barbara Buono might be the loneliest Democrat of 2013.
The New Jersey state senator is taking on Chris Christie in the New Jersey's governor's race. It's a long shot effort: Christie, one of the most famous politicians in the country, is leading Buono by 30 points in one recent poll, and he's hoping to use a landslide in November as a possible springboard for a 2016 presidential bid.
National Democrats aren't helping. President Obama toured the New Jersey coastline with Christie after Hurricane Sandy last year and again in May, a heavy dose of bipartisan publicity for the Republican governor. The Democratic Governors Association has not sent Buono a penny. And two weeks ago, Bill Clinton invited the governor to a Chicago symposium and lavished praise on Christie's disaster response efforts in full view of the national media.
Buono has been largely diligent about biting her tongue while the biggest names in Democratic politics backslap her GOP rival. With a fundraising deficit and four months until Election Day, she can't afford to rile the very people she might have to call upon if the race tightens.
"We each will have our share of supporters and endorsements and public endorsements," Buono told CNN in an interview last weekend at the progressive Netroots Nation conference in California. "Say what you want about New Jersey. We are tough, we are smart, we are savvy and people are going to go to the polls in November and they are going to vote based on the pocketbook issues."
Still, Christie's appearance with Clinton earlier this month seemed to strike a nerve with the Middlesex Democrat.
"What frustrated me was that President Clinton didn't call him out for being a climate change denier," Buono said. "That's what frustrated me. The irony in all of this is that he is basking in the afterglow of Sandy, and yet we know that climate change, we know that our sea levels are higher, we know our atmosphere is warmer. We know that climate change is upon us, and that's why we're are having more extreme and more frequent weather patterns coming across New Jersey and across our nation."
Christie's position on climate change came under scrutiny last month when he told a reporter that "I don't think there's been any proof thus far that Sandy was caused by climate change."
Asked if the governor believes in climate change, Christie spokesman Colin Reed pointed to a May 2011 appearance in Trenton in which the governor cited "undeniable data" about rising carbon dioxide levels and said flatly, "climate change is real and it's impacting our state."
Buono avoided another question about the lack of support from Clinton and Obama, pivoting instead to a series of other charges against Christie.
"Our challenge is to make him own his record," she said, asked how she plans to overcome such a wide polling deficit. "His is a record of being far to the right. Clearly out of step on just about every step social issue are progressive on. He is unabashedly anti-choice. He is anti-marriage equality. He vetoed it. He is anti-pay equity."
Buono also pointed to rising New Jersey property taxes, increasing higher education costs, one of the worst states to do business. She delivered a similar message in her first television ad, which also highlighted her working class roots (she's the daughter of an immigrant butcher who worked her way through college and law school).
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the Christie campaign, called her claims "more of the same distortions and outright misrepresentations of the governor's positions that have been repeated over and over by Barbara Buono and her allies."
He called the Buono campaign "increasingly desperate."
Buono made the trip to the liberal conference in San Jose, she said, "to rub shoulders with the progressives." She met with bloggers, political activists and spoke to a reception hosted by Emily's List, which supports female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights. It was clear that she is hunting for support wherever she can get it.
Buono's challenge is further complicated by the special Senate election ordered by Christie that will take place on Oct. 16, just a few weeks before the gubernatorial election. Newark's media-savvy mayor Cory Booker is expected to win the Democratic Senate nomination and is already outshining Buono as the Democrats' main attraction in New Jersey this year.
A Monmouth University poll released earlier this month showed Democrats in the state more interested in the Senate election than the governor's race. The same poll showed Christie with an unusually high approval rating among Democrats, with 36 percent of them supporting him over Buono.
Some Democrats filed a lawsuit challenging Christie's decision to hold two costly statewide elections in the span of three weeks, but the move was rejected last week by the state Supreme Court.
Buono said she supports efforts to hold both elections on the same day. She said Christie's election move was a nakedly political move designed to water down Democratic turnout in the November election.
"I think we should have one election, we shouldn't have two elections within 20 days of each other," she said. "One thing that this decision did was expose that this is a governor that is anything but straight talking and apolitical. Every decision he makes is calibrated on how it impacts his political future."