Christie Cruises to Re-election in New Jersey, Prompts Presidential Speculation

Landslide victory in the blue state sets Republican Christie up for 2016.

New Jersey first lady, Mary Pat Christie, laughs as her husband, Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, jokes with the media Tuesday after they voted in Mendham Township, N.J.
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, was re-elected in a landslide Tuesday by voters, who embraced their brash, larger-than-life leader. But whether he'll be around to serve the full four years of his new term is anybody's guess.

[PHOTOS: Christie, McAuliffe and de Blasio Grab Elections]

The dominant victory over his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, in a state President Barack Obama won by 17 points in 2012, makes a compelling case for Christie as a Republican presidential candidate.

And with his massive victory over Buono, Christie becomes the first Republican candidate to crack 50 percent in a statewide race in New Jersey since 1985.

For a national Republican Party reeling from all-time lows in popularity, Christie's crossover appeal may well make him the darling of top GOP moneymen looking for an actual return on their campaign financing investment in a national race after two terms of a Democrat in the White House.

 

[READ: Christie Win in New Jersey to Start 2016 Talk]

Christie, pressed by Buono in a debate about whether he would promise to serve out his full term, declined to rule out leaving early. It's an angle she sought to use against him, but to no avail.

"Today when voters go the polls I know that, because of all the hard work our team has done, New Jersey will elect a leader who is focused on a better future for our state instead of their own political ambitions," the Buono campaign wrote in an Election Day email to supporters.

The progressive state senator also tried to make social issues central to the campaign, criticizing Christie for his opposition to same-sex marriage in the liberal state.

Christie entered his first term ruffling liberal establishment feathers, particularly those of teachers' union members with his willingness to harshly confront them in town halls. His political team then promoted the videos on YouTube. At issue was an effort to reform state pension plans and reduce debt. It's a move that turned him into a conservative cult hero, but also crafted an image of him as a bully.

 

[ALSO: Chris Christie's Gay Marriage Decision Will Be 2016 Issue]

Thanks to personality and circumstance, Christie proved too affable a character and was seen as too much of a champion of the state to be hurt by her attacks. He also had vastly deeper campaign coffers and was able to freely promote his role in helping the state recover from Hurricane Sandy, something that won him bipartisan support.

Crisscrossing the state in a campaign bus on Election Day, Christie appeared to be on a victory lap even ahead of the polls closing. After casting his own ballot in Mendham, N.J., Christie noted his journey was complete, at least when it came to New Jersey politicking.

"I don't know if I'll ever have another chance to vote for myself," he said. "I won't ever run for another office in New Jersey, I can guarantee that. This is it for me."

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