Shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, the AP and other media outlets easily called the New Jersey governor's race for Republican incumbent Chris Christie, based on exit polls. He defeated Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat, by taking a third of the Democratic votes in the state, and two-thirds of independents. The win for the GOP in New Jersey will likely be in contrast to the expected results of a handful of other big races this Tuesday, including the New York City Mayor's race, and the Virginia governor's race.
That could be, in part, why the national RNC quickly made sure to mention its support for Christie's campaign in a congratulatory statement from chairman Reince Priebus:
In this race Governor Christie earned significant support among minority voters. That’s a testament to the success of his results-oriented leadership and an inclusive campaign. During this race, the RNC worked alongside the Christie campaign to engage early and often with Hispanic, African American and Asian voters.
In his victory speech later on Tuesday, Christie took that partial credit back: "If we can do this in Trenton, NJ," he said of his political victory, "maybe the people in Washington D.C. should tune in their TVs right now to see how it's done."
With 58 percent of the vote counted, Christie was winning 59 percent of the vote. Buono pulled just 38 percent. In his re-election campaign, Christie outspent his opponent, who saw little support from the national Democratic party in her challenge to the incumbent. Which means now that Christie's second term is secure, everyone's getting down to the business of discussing the governor's possible run for president in 2016. Here's the AP:
Christie, who is openly considering running for president, has said his success offers a template for broadening the GOP's appeal after the disastrous 2012 election cycle and the party's record-low approval ratings following the recent government shutdown.
Here's in part why the 2016 speculation comes so easily here: Christie won his re-election by drawing well from both his base and from traditionally Democratic-leaning categories of voters, despite the low approval ratings of his party nationally. The exit polls estimate that the incumbent took over 50 percent of the female vote, for instance. And while he soundly lost to Buono among both Latino and African American voters, CNN points out that his draw by their polls — a fifth of African American votes and 45 percent of Latinos, are bigger numbers than his party normally sees. That's evidenced by the RNC's almost immediate statement linking itself to Christie's draw among minority voters.
Even though Christie's actual politics often lean conservative, he's done some serious rhetorical work to try and distance himself as much as possible from the Tea Party cohort of the Republican Party, especially in the shut down. As the national party's approval ratings plummeted in the wake of the shutdown, Christie had some strong words: "get the government reopened, stop monkeying around, and get back to work. I said, I'm out there in the field, people have no patience for this stuff. None."
That's part of Christie's approach that seems to work broadly for him in elections. At least, in this election. Because despite the fact that many can't seem to stop discussing Christie's prospects for 2016, not all of the voters the republican won today would necessarily stay with Christie in a hypothetical match-up between the governor and Hillary Clinton, whose 2016 speculation rivals Christie's. In NBC's exit polls, 50 percent of voters said they'd vote for Clinton, while 43 percent chose Christie.