But the 54-year-old told The Washington Times Wednesday that she plans to back Mr. Christie for a second time in next week’s gubernatorial election thanks in part to the way he crossed party lines to work with President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“I’m a Democrat and I would vote for him in a minute,” said Ms. Montella, as she waited to catch a glimpse of Mr. Christie at a campaign stop outside a local seafood restaurant. “We love him here. We really do. What I like about him is he is who he is. He tells it like it is. He is for the people and he crosses party lines if he has to.”
Ms. Montella, a sales director at a local hotel, was one of a number of Democrats who turned out to greet Mr. Christie on the first day of a weeklong bus tour that kicked off Wednesday and marks the final push of his re-election campaign.
Mr. Christie’s ability to win-over blue-state voters has helped him build massive lead heading into his Nov. 5 race against Democrats state Sen. Barbara Buono.
Some political pundits and GOP insiders say that appeal could turn into Mr. Christie’s biggest strength if he runs for president in the 2016 election, where the Republican National Committee says the party must bolster its national base to win.
The RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” post-election wrap-up of what went wrong said that if the party wants to win national election it must broaden its appeal beyond the Republican base and do a better job of reaching out to women, young voters and minorities.
Mr. Christie is faring well with each of these groups, and polls show that his response to Hurricane Sandy is playing well with voters from across the political and demographic spectrum.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found that among likely voters he is sitting atop a 33-point lead and that he has the support of more than three in 10 Democrats and more than seven in 10 independents.
“From the banks of the Delaware to the beaches of the Atlantic, New Jersey voters like their governor, Chris Christie,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute. “Even almost a third of Democrats pick Christie over State Sen. Barbara Buono.”
Matt Farrauto, spokesman for the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, shrugged off the notion that Mr. Christie has a deep reservoir of support from Democrats, particularly on the policy front, saying that the Republican’s popularity is driven more than “celebrity than substance.”
“I would not for a second credit him with having significant success reaching out to Democrats,” said Mr. Farrauto, before downplaying recent Christie campaign fliers featuring Democrats who endorsed Mr. Christie. “In his mailers he cherry-picks some local officials and runs around the state and talks to national media to suggest that he is more popular than he is with Democrats.”
The opening day of Mr. Christie’s bus tour included stops at American-styled diners, a senior center and a local pizza joint.
With his wife, Mary Pat, in tow, Mr. Christie kissed babies, posed for hundreds of photographs and yucked it up with some of his old pals from his high school baseball team, which captured the state championship in 1980.
Speaking at a senior center in Fair Lawn, Mr. Christie played up his tough-talking image by touting his record of exposing corruption, saying he put 10 percent of the state legislature in prison as a federal prosecutor and has continued to put a stop to it as governor.