November 5th, 2013
08:41 PM ET
5 months ago

What Christie's victory means for the next presidential race

(CNN) - Chris Christie's re-election speech Tuesday night sounded like something more, as the Republican governor of New Jersey with national aspirations touted his bipartisan successes and railed at the partisan gridlock in the nation's capital.

"It wasn't an acceptance speech, that was an announcement speech," said CNN contributor Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and veteran of numerous GOP campaigns.

While much of his address was directed at his New Jersey audience, Christie also had a message for the nation.

"I know tonight, a dispirited America, angry with their dysfuctional government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say,'Is what I think happening really happening? Are people really coming together. Are we really working, African-Americans and Hispanics, suburbanites and city dwellers, farmers and teachers. Are we really all working together.' 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, always be finished," said Christie, who's seriously considering a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Election Night 2013: Christie wins big, Virginia provides drama

Christie's victory was never in doubt.  And as the polls in the Garden State closed Tuesday night, CNN and other news networks quickly projected that the high-profile governor would win a second term in Trenton.

But the big questions heading into Election Day 2013 were how large a victory Christie would capture over Barbara Buono, his little-known Democratic challenger, and how Christie would perform with voters who tend to cast ballots for Democrats.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Christie was winning 60% of the vote, with Buono at 38%.

And according to CNN exit polls, Christie performed well with groups that normally cast ballots for Democrats.

Christie and McAuliffe took different paths to victory

Exit polls indicate the GOP governor grabbing 57% of the female vote and winning all age groups except 18 to 29, which he narrowly lost. Christie also won the Latino vote and took just over a fifth of the African-American vote, a much better performance than most Republicans in recent elections.

As expected, Christie carried 93% of Republicans, according to the exit polls. But he also won two-thirds of independents and just over three in 10 Democrats in a state where Democrats and independents made up nearly three-quarters of Tuesday's electorate.

5 things we learned from Tuesday

Christie is seriously considering a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The exit polls appear to bolster Christie's case that he's among the most electable of the potential GOP White House hopefuls heading into 2016.

The conventional wisdom was that team Christie was hoping for an impressive victory in blue-state New Jersey. Christie talked about the margin of victory earlier Tuesday.

"Christie Whitman was elected twice here and never broke 50 percent. Nobody (no Republican) since 1988 has had a 5 in front of their name in a statewide race," Christie said in an exclusive Election Day interview with CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper.

Christie appeared to be referring to then Vice President George H.W. Bush, who grabbed 56% of the vote in New Jersey in his 1988 presidential election victory.

"My goal always in this race has been to at least get to 50% plus one, and anything above that is gravy and so I'll be really happy with that because that's a historical achievement - in 25 years no one has done that in New Jersey so I'll be happy with that," added Christie. "I suspect we may do better than that."

Christie held leads of 36 percentage points, 28 points and 20 points over Buono among likely Garden State voters in three public opinion polls released on the eve of the election.

That had pretty much been the storyline the entire campaign, after Christie's numbers skyrocketed late last year, thanks to his job responding to Superstorm Sandy, which caused billions of dollars in damage days before Election Day 2012.

Buono gets little support from fellow Democrats

Christie greatly outraised and outspent Buono, who received little support from national Democrats and their affiliated groups. And a number of leading Garden State Democrats backed Christie.

In her concession speech, Buono said that "the Democratic political bosses, some elected and some not, made a deal with this governor despite him representing everything they're supposed to be against. They didn't do it to help the state. They did it to help themselves financially and politically."

Christie's political future came up numerous times during the campaign.

"I can walk and chew gum at the same time," Christie said at one of two debates against Buono. "I can do this job and also deal with my future, and that's exactly what I will do."

Asked in an NBC News interview that aired last weekend whether he's planning for a message that extends beyond New Jersey, Christie replied, "I'm not planning for it - I just think it's inevitable."

Christie's new role

Christie was quickly congratulated by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the chairman and vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

"Governor Chris Christie's overwhelming victory proves that voters are looking for confident and competent leadership. His victory also proves that Republicans can compete and win in every state," said Jindal and Walker, in a statement.

Later this month, Christie takes over as RGA chairman, which will allow him to travel the country over the next year in support of GOP governors and gubernatorial candidates, giving an already visible potential White House hopeful even more visibility.

Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada, the states that kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar, are among the three dozen states holding elections for governor next year.

Is Christie conservative enough?

While Christie appears to be scoring a very impressive victory in New Jersey, if he runs for the GOP presidential nomination he'll face a very different and much more conservative electorate in the Republican primaries and caucuses.

"I'm a conservative," Christie told Tapper. "I've governed as a conservative in this state."

Some on the right have criticized Christie as not being conservative enough. Add Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a favorite of tea party activists and another likely contender for the 2016 GOP nomination, to that list.

"I think the Republican Party is a big party, and we need moderates like Chris Christie who can win in New Jersey," Paul said Tuesday on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

"What that means about the national party, I'm not sure there's an answer. But we do need moderates like Chris Christie in the party," added Paul, as he accentuated his point.

Rand Paul labels Chris Christie a moderate


Filed under: 2013 • Barbara Buono • Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Man from another Land

    America must be dispirited and angry if they're looking to New Jersey.

    Kidding aside, Christie seems like a nice enough guy. When he had a cameo on SNL, he certainly didn't come across as a typical Republican.

    November 6, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    Christie won New Jersey? How shocking is that?

    Yeah, I know. He won because he is a moderate Republican.

    Yeah, I know. He won because he is a conservative Republican.

    November 6, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  3. Ed

    Chrisie's win shows that he can win in 2016, anyone else from the GOP who is nominated will lose, but winning based on the GOP platforms is not one of their goals anymore. Beware of the GOPers who don't want Chjstie to be nominated for 2016.

    November 6, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
1 2 3