If one tried to script an election to help a candidate’s eventual presidential run it would be hard to write a set of results better for Republican Governor Chris Christie than what happened last night.
To begin with, he won the blue state of New Jersey by a huge margin, which should help him make the electability argument. Christie ended up with 60.5 percent of the vote while Democrat Barbara Buono got only 38 percent. How he won is almost as important as the size of his victory. For example he actually managed to narrowly win with Hispanics. While they make up only a small share of the vote in New Jersey, they are very important in presidential elections. This is a group Republicans have as a whole been losing by a wide margin in the past few elections, and they probably can’t win the White House without it.
Beyond New Jersey all the other big elections helped enforce a pro-Christie narrative. In Virginia Ken Cuccinelli narrowly lost to Terry McAuliffe, the personification of the Clinton machine. Cuccinelli lost because he was too far right on social issues and too closely tied to the Tea Party. It is clear a more electable Republican might have had a real chance in this critical presidential swing state. Instead, the Clinton team scraped out a victory. It is very easy for Christie supporters to spin this Virginia election as a warning about 2016.
Finally, in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District the establishment Republican, Bradley Byrne, beat the far right candidate, Dean Young, after business interests spent big on Byrne’s behalf. While there were a lot of local issues going on, it will likely be held up by many as an example showing that “moderate” business groups can take back the primary process from hard right conservative activists — a model for Christie’s path to the nomination.
The Christie campaign can easily combine the election results of last night into one great pro-Christie narrative. While the reality is more complex than this oversimplification, what matters is if potential Republican donors and activists believe it.
Photo by Bob Jagendorf under Creative Commons license