Gov. Christie Re-elected After Landslide Victory

Soon after Republican incumbent Chris Christie easily topped Democratic challenger Barbara Buono in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, the political buzz shifted to the governor’s plans for 2016.

Christie’s re-election, by a margin of 60 percent to Buono’s 38 percent, is widely believed to be the beginning of a possible presidential run. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Christie earned 1,252,100 votes and state Sen. Buono (D-Middlesex) collected 790,245.

“Thank you New Jersey for making me the luckiest guy in the world,” Christie said to an exuberant crowd in Asbury Park at his victory party. “Tonight, I stand here as your governor, and I am so proud.”

CNN contributor and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos called Christie’s address “an announcement speech,” which made several nods to Washington, saying that Capitol Hill should take note of the progress New Jersey has made.

Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Teigen said Christie has been touting his bipartisanship in his first term, reaching across the aisle to work with Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney on important reform.

But what Christie feels has worked in Trenton won’t necessarily work in Washington, D.C., Teigen said.

“The potential for bipartisanship as we have seen very vividly in the past two months is at an all-time low, with few prospects for any redemption,” Teigen said.

Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told Bloomberg that Christie gained bipartisan appeal thanks to his leadership in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

The only thing standing between Christie and the presidency now, Zelizer said, is New Jersey’s lagging economy, which continues to be a sore spot with state residents in polls.

“The inability to really generate economic activity may leave a bad mark on his reputation,” Zelizer said. “That’s where he puts all his emphasis in the next few years.”

Christie’s landslide victory over Buono serves to make him a “compelling” choice for the Republican bid for president.

“He’s not even subtle anymore,” Teigen continued. “He used to be more coy.”

Yet at a press conference Wednesday, the governor said he does not have his sights set on the White House-at least for the immediate future, NBC News reports.

“It’s complimentary. It’s flattering, and I have no problem with it,” the governor told reporters. “But I want to be really clear about this: I have a job to do. I got re-elected to do a job last night, and that’s the job I’m going to do.”

Should Christie win the presidency, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno would take his place in the state.

Teigen explained that Christie set himself up for a big win upon Senator Frank Lautenberg’s passing. His decision to hold a special election in October to fill the Senate seat, he said, allowed Christie to avoid a ballot that includes popular Democrat Cory Booker.

“He chose the election that he got,” Teigen said. “Chris Christie did both his gubernatorial results as well as his 2016 candidacy for which [the election] was a springboard a great deal of help. He didn’t get lucky; he made his luck.”

Buono topped the incumbent in just two counties-Hudson and Essex. In Bergen County, voters overwhelmingly supported Christie, who captured 60.2 percent of votes to Buono’s 38.7 percent.

The Associated Press called the race one minute after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Buono conceded shortly before 9 p.m.

“I know we have our differences, but when it comes down to it, we’re just two parents who want to see the best for our children’s future,” Buono told a small crowd in Metuchen, “and we both take pride in the fact that we live in a nation where we can all respect and uphold the democratic process.”

Among all the speculation on Christie’s next steps, Teigen said there is still a long way to go.

“Being governor of any state four, five, six years, something could go wrong,” he said. “Big issues could come up, unforeseen today.”

– Additional reporting by Christopher Emch