One thing that makes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s re-election prospects next year look so good, beyond his currently record high job approval rating and strong showing in potential horse race polls, is that in New Jersey it makes a lot of sense for top-tier Democrats to simply wait.
New Jersey is inherently a blue state without a deep Republican bench. While there are many states where a Democrat running for state-wide office would almost assuredly face a tough Republican opponent, regardless which year or for what office they chose to run, that is not the case in New Jersey. Christie is a unique strong Republican candidate in the state at the moment. Top-tier Democrats in New Jersey can reasonably expect that if they wait only a few years they will face a much weaker Republican opponent. Why spend all the energy on a race that looks like a guaranteed losswhen there are likely to be much easier races in the relatively near future?
PPP has some new polling out that shows how much better Newark Mayor Cory Booker would do if he waited to run for Senate in 2014 instead of running against Christie in 2013 for governor, but the same basic dynamic likely applies to every high profile potential Democratic candidate in the state. From PPP on the 2013 gubernatorial race:
Christie would far outpace any of the Democrats who have been discussed as potential candidates for Governor. He leads Cory Booker 50-36, Richard Codey 53-31, Steve Sweeney 57-20, and Barbara Buono 60-20.
Booker would be even stronger than Lautenberg in a head to head match up with Guadagno, leading her 52 to 29. 48% of New Jersey voters have a favorable opinion of Booker to only 20% with a negative one. He’s very popular with Democrats (60/13) and independents (45/21) and even comes close to breaking even with Republicans at 29/34.
The fact that at this moment simply waiting seems like the most viable option for top-tier Democrats in the state which could easily result in Christie facing a relatively weak challenger. Christie’s post-Sandy bump could fade, but this is the time when potential challengers need to decid if they are going to run or not.