Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Jersey Governor Election

New Jersey Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent

2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Prediction: Safe Republican

The year after each Presidential election, two states see elections for Governor and much attention is focused on those races as junkies look for any sort of sign of what could be a political barometer for the following year's midterm election. For decades now, the voters in those states, including New Jersey, have chosen to elect a Governor from the opposing party of the President who had been elected one year earlier.

That particular trend seems to hold this year as Republican Chris Christie is headed to what almost all expect to be a landslide victory in a Democrat leaning state. Four years ago, Christie was in a very narrow race until the end against an unpopular Democrat incumbent. Now, Christie is quite a popular incumbent in his state and has proven that his 2009 election was not a fluke. Many, including Republican partisans believe that Christie, who is known to harbor Presidential ambitions, is an ideal candidate for Republicans because of his political success in the Garden State. As a Republican partisan myself, I do not happen to believe that is the case for a variety of reasons, and while Christie is a very talented politician whose attributes work very well for a New Jersey Gubernatorial career, my party can certainly find a stronger candidate and a stronger person to be President. However, that is literally an argument for another year. In the meantime, I am quite glad that the Governor is about to be reelected and recognize that it may be the one bright spot of Election Night 2013 for the GOP.

This is just the second Gubernatorial election in "Jersey" where a Lt. Governor has been selected to run alongside the nominee for Governor. For Christie, who may not be looking to serve out his entire term, his running-mate once again is Kim Guadagno, the Lt. Governor. Opposing the incumbent, is Democrat State Senator Barbara Buono, who was the consensus choice for her party in the primary, after many prominent Democrats, especially now Senator-Elect Cory Booker declined to challenge the formidable Christie. Strongly backed by several labor unions in the state, Buono showed her appreciation, and surprised many by selecting a union leader, Milly Silva, as her choice for Lt. Governor. I believe this may be the first circumstance anywhere in America of a major party female nominee for Governor choosing to select another woman to be on the ticket with her. By the time that selection had been made though, few were giving Buono any shot of seriously threatening Christie's reelection. While she has been trying to hammer away on her opponent in anyway possible, she is really but a side character in this election. It is all basically about Chris Christie. Buono looks good on television, but from bits of a recent televised debate I saw on C-SPAN, she was an extremely poor debater.

Combative, bombastic, and extremely blunt, Christie had been popular with Republicans across during his term as Governor. A record of results and strong political skills allowed him to amass much public support in his state. Many in the GOP wished for him to enter the 2012 Presidential primaries, and he said he gave it serious consideration, before deciding to endorse eventual nominee Mitt Romney instead. Campaigning hard for Romney, Christie was one of the most popular and utilized surrogates on the campaign trail for much of 2012. However, he has been said to have been disappointed that Romney did not select him as his Vice Presidential running-mate and the keynote speech that Christie was selected to deliver at the 2012 Republican National Convention was met with mixed reviews, as many believed he came across as too self-serving in that speech.

One year ago this week, Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New Jersey and devastated parts of the state. The way that Christie responded to the emergency did much to make him even more popular in his state, including among Democrats that had soured on him for being too partisan of a Republican and has done much to solidify his reelection efforts. It also did much to perhaps prevent Mitt Romney, the man that Christie had been seen as so closely tied to from being elected President.

At the time, Romney and Barack Obama were locked in a tight race, but one which polling data and perceived momentum showed as having moved towards the GOP challenger. It was taken for granted that Obama would carry overwhelmingly Democrat New Jersey though, and immediately after the storm, Christie and Obama worked closely together (as should be expected and welcomed) to help lead the response, but the Republican Governor was so over the top and effusive in his praise for Obama that many voters across the country came to the false conclusion that Christie had switched his endorsement from Romney to Obama, because of the leadership he believed Obama had delivered after Sandy. It is true that Christie said that he no longer cared about Presidential politics or Mitt Romney during the closing days of that campaign.

Obama certainly received a bounce from Hurricane Sandy and any momentum that Romney had was lost, as the campaign temporarily came to a halt during the aftermath of the disaster. Some believe it may have made all the difference in the election and many Republicans were furious at Christie, believing him to have either been used by the Obama Administration for their own purposes, or deciding that he had far more to gain for his popularity in New Jersey by trying to "hug" Obama, who was going to win the state anyway.

As I said on this blog a year ago, I certainly do not begrudge Christie for working with whomever to try to help his state during a time of crisis, but I think he put his own political ambitions (both statewide and nationally) ahead of the immediate short-term prospects for the man, who he knew deep down was important to see elected to replace Obama. When I discussed the special U.S. Senate election in New Jersey on here recently, I talked in great detail about how Christie's appointment of a caretaker Senator and insistence on calling an October special election that was almost certain to elect a Democrat, even without being required by law to do so, was all about his own political self-interests. Christie, who has not been in danger of losing reelection for well over a year, seems to be content not only on winning, but by milking out every possible vote for a margin of victory. It remains to be seen whether or not he will surpass 60 percent of the vote, but you can be certain that Christie partisans in the GOP will try to use his reelection landslide as a rationale to nominate him as the GOP's only hope for 2016. Personally, I have serious doubts he will even run when it comes down to it.

While challenged from the right in a Republican primary this year, Christie won easily and there is little evidence to suggest that any grudges against him have carried over, at least as it relates to his reelection as Governor. I am pleased with that, despite the misgivings about Christie's ego and political character that have developed over a year.

Within the past year, Christie, who has been extremely overweight for many years, went under the knife for a gastric bypass operation. While still quite rotund, the weight loss has been noticeable, and it was certainly a necessary measure if Christie has any plans to run for national office one day. Unless he loses a good deal more weight though, he can expect his size to still be the subject of many late night television jokes, and while perhaps unfair, it will also continue to be the first thing that comes to mind when Americans think of him.

New Jersey remains staunchly Democrat, and Christie has taken some steps to the center, such as recently deciding not to stand in the way of the new law in the state which legalizes same sex marriage. He is currently being supported for reelection by several Democrat elected officials, and even some labor unions, and traditionally liberal newspaper editorial boards. He also even has a campaign ad featuring a Shaquille O'Neal (who is originally from New Jersey) now running.

Barbara Buono has received little if any traction going after Christie from the left, and has tried to take issue with his Presidential ambitions and has tied him to the national Republican Party during the election. Polling data has given very little indication that it has worked against Christie in New Jersey though, as every survey shows him well ahead of his Democrat opponent. As I have previously alluded to, I just sort of wish he would have been willing to be reelected by a slightly closer margin, in order to do some other good things for his party, state, and country.

On the heels of a pretty underwhelming victory for Democrat Cory Booker over a weak opponent in the U.S. Senate race a couple weeks ago, Christie's impending big win in November will give a false impression that New Jersey has suddenly become more hospitable to the GOP. Still though, Christie will be given another term to accomplish the goals he set out to do, when he took office four years ago during very difficult times for his state. He is likely to remain a figure of much fascination and national attention as everything he says and does in a second term will be seen through the prism of primary and general election Presidential politics, until we know for certain what his 2016 plans are.

Christie campaign link: