Christie's Win No Surprise, but What Does it Portend for His White House Run?

Yahoo Contributor Network

Yahoo asked Republican and conservative voters in New Jersey and Virginia to react to Tuesday's gubernatorial elections and tell us: What did voters learn about their party's strategies in these races that can be applied to 2014 and beyond? Here's one perspective.

COMMENTARY | New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's landslide re-election is no surprise in a state that, despite an overwhelming Democratic majority, has a record of electing and re-electing Republican governors. Add Christie's hands-on leadership during and after Hurricane Sandy, bipartisan approach to pension reform, direct communication style, and unprecedented willingness to stand up to the state's powerful teachers union and the governor cast a shadow that Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono couldn't possibly escape.

More interesting, when looking toward Christie's likely presidential run in 2016, is the shape of the constituency he built this time around. According to The New York Times, Christie split the Hispanic vote with Buono, won over a much higher number of African-American voters than he did in 2009, and made significant inroads among women. These groups are going to be essential to achieving his presidential aspirations.

Christie's reputation as a moderate Republican will serve him well as he faces a national electorate that seems equally tired of President Barack Obama and the tea party. He will face predictable headwinds created by his positions on abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, his connection with financial fraudster Bernie Madoff probably won't be the last bit of "dirt" dredged up from Christie's lobbying days.

But the clinchers will be:

1. How Christie manages state finances during his second term.

2. Whether the Obama Administration manages to make lemonade out of the Affordable Care Act debacle.

Payments on New Jersey's pension reform plan are coming due, and the rating agencies will be watching. Some combination of spending cuts and revenue increases are inevitable if the state is to avoid a downgrade. Sit tight, fellow Jerseyans, because they will likely come earlier than later.

The next Democratic presidential candidate will reap the grief or glory of Obamacare. If President Obama and the Democratic leadership can bring this beast to heel, the party will have something to crow about. If not, the ACA may well be the vehicle that carries a Republican into the White House.

Right now, Christie seems the most likely beneficiary. But a lot can change in a few years.

Jeff Dunsavage, 51, is a lifelong New Jerseyan who lives in the one-square-mile Borough of Dunellen. A former Dunellen councilman and past president of the Dunellen Education Foundation, he has voted Republican in nearly every election since he first registered.

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