- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has undergone lap-band surgery, vetoed gun control bills and banned anti-gay conversion therapies for minors — all while touting his ability to push conservative principles in a blue state.

With three months to go before he faces voters in his quest for another term as governor, the rotund Republican looks poised to run away with a double-digit victory that could build momentum for a 2016 presidential bid.

“It is vital for Gov. Christie to run up a big margin in order to make his story work,” said Charlie Gerow, an American Conservative Union member and CEO of Pennsylvania-based Quantum Communications. “Without a big margin, the story is far less powerful. But if he is successful, the story for Chris Christie is, ‘I am a Republican that not only can win in a very blue state, but I am able to win convincingly and handily in a very blue state.’”

New Jersey last went for a Republican presidential candidate in 1988. Since then, no Republican has won 50 percent of the vote in a statewide election, not even Mr. Christie, who was elected governor in 2009 with 49 percent of the vote.

“If he has big numbers, Republican leaders from around the country will have to look and say, ‘What he does works electorally,’” Mr. Gerow said.

Others say Mr. Christie doesn’t even have to win big; simply winning is good enough.

“Frankly, a Republican governor getting re-elected in a blue state makes the point relevant to winning a national race,” said Henry Barbour, a member of the Republican National Committee and one of the authors of the party’s postelection Growth and Opportunity Project. “It does not take a lot of analysis to figure out a Republican winning there twice is connecting with voters we don’t normally convert in general elections.”

Mr. Christie is running well ahead of state Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat, in the polls in the run-up to their Nov. 5 contest.

He also shrewdly separated the special election he had to call to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg. He scheduled it for October, while his own re-election bid follows the regular November cycle.

Mr. Christie could have named a replacement to serve out the remainder of Mr. Lautenberg’s term, but he opted instead for a special election.

The governor’s rivals say the decision will cost taxpayers $24 million and that Mr. Christie did not want to be on the same ticket as Newark Mayor Corey Booker, the popular Democratic Senate candidate who could have attracted more Democrats to the polls and cut into Mr. Christie’s margin of victory.

Mr. Gerow, though, said there was nothing wrong with Mr. Christie’s decision-making.

“It stands to reason that the governor would — as would any governor — make a political calculation about when to schedule a special election,” Mr. Gerow said.

Mr. Christie rode into office in 2009 along with Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a pair of triumphs that helped rally the Republican faithful in the wake of Sen. Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election.

The gubernatorial victories helped set the table for the 2010 elections, when the tea party movement emerged as a political force and Republicans won control of the U.S. House.

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