New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) easily won reelection on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, claiming a second term by what appeared to be a potentially unprecedented margin.
The win is thought to propel the governor toward a potential 2016 presidential campaign. Even in the closing days of the campaign, he made little secret that a presidential campaign is very much on the table – a prospect most politicians wouldn’t touch on the eve of a reelection campaign.
The call was made by AP as polls were closing. Christie faced Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.
It's not yet clear how much of the vote Christie will win, but late polls showed him eclipsing the 60 percent mark. The last Republican to win more than 60 percent --or even a majority -- of the vote in a New Jersey governor’s race was former governor Tom Kean in 1985.
The win stood in stark contrast to the GOP’s struggles in the other state holding a governor’s race Tuesday, Virginia.
While the more moderate Christie blew out his opponent in a blue state, the more conservative Ken Cuccinelli (R) trailed in one of the nation’s premier swing states.
Despite that contrast, Christie maintained in an interview with CNN on Tuesday that he is himself a conservative.
At the same time, though, he argued that Republicans need to be more pragmatic in their approach to politics – a theme that he has touched on previously and sounds a lot like a potential 2016 strategy. Cuccinelli is thought to have marginalized himself among independent voters, while a late poll showed Christie winning as much as 80 percent of the independent vote in New Jersey.
“You know, sometimes, I feel like our party cares more about winning the argument than they care about winning elections,” Christie said. “And if you don't win elections, you can't govern.”
Democrats failed to land a top-flight recruit to run against Christie after his reaction to superstorm Sandy on the eve of the 2012 election sent his approval rating to new heights. To this day, Christie remains one of the best-liked governors in the country.
Among those passing on the race was now-Sen. Cory Booker (D), who was then mayor of Newark and crafted a working relationship with Christie.
Booker won a special Senate election last month and was sworn in last week.
Buono had some harsh words for her party following her defeat. She said her supporters "withstood the onslaught of betrayal from our own political party."
Updated at 9:00 p.m.