Chris Christie's landslide reelection win has got to be encouraging for Republicans in 2016 -- encouraging because their brightest rising star and potential presidential nominee just won more than 60 percent of the vote in a blue state.
But as much hope as Christie gives the GOP in 2016, his victory is hardly reason for GOP optimism in 2014.
For a few reasons.
First, because Christie made pains to separate his brand from the congressional GOP.
When congressional Republicans blocked aid for superstorm Sandy, Christie lashed out at his own party's Washington contingent, labeling House Republicans' conduct "toxic" and "disgusting" and pointing a finger directly at House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). "Shame on you, shame on Congress," Christie said at the time.
More recently, Christie opposed the GOP's Defund Obamacare strategy from the start, saying it was "irresponsible" to risk a shutdown. He even came to Washington during the heart of the shutdown and again publicly shunned the strategy.
And after his win Tuesday, Christie used his victory speech to taunt a Congress that saw its approval rating fall to new depths after the shutdown. “Maybe the folks in Washington D.C. should tune in their TV right now to see how it’s done,” a characteristically brash Christie said on national TV.
Christie isn't the only GOP governor with 2016 ambitions charting this course -- other notables include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- but as we've noted before, he's certainly the most active anti-Washington voice in the GOP.
There's a reason Christie picks on Congress and his own party; it's electoral gold, because congressional Republicans' brand is just that bad.
The second reason: The Christie model is extremely difficult to replicate.
Christie, quite simply, is a one-of-a-kind politician. Other Republicans aren't allowed to run afoul of the National Rifle Association, embrace President Obama at times, and publicly criticize their party's shutdown strategy. If Christie did that as a House or Senate Republican, he likely would have found himself targeted in a primary.
Then there is the fact that Christie's style is basically impossible to copy. Try and name another Republican -- or politician, period -- who is as good on his feet and has such an original brand.
And finally, even as Christie was winning 60 percent of the vote, the GOP brand continued to recede.
A George Washington University poll released the day before Christie's win showed 65 percent of people in Republican congressional districts said they wanted to elect someone else. That's significantly higher than the number is in Democratic districts -- and suggests Republicans can't completely count on holding the House in 2014, despite a map that clearly favors their party.
It all suggests Christie's victory had everything to do with him and very little to with the party he calls home.
All of which is to say that Christie might help his party return to the White House after 2016. But until the GOP can start cloning Christie's DNA, it shouldn't feel any better about itself.