Mitt Romney's decision to pick a horse in the New Jersey Republican gubernatorial primary likely accomplishes two things: it boosts former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie's standing among conservatives, and it strengthens Romney's chances of picking up organizational and fundraising support in New Jersey if he seeks the 2012 GOP nomination for President.
Christie leads former Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan, who has been the de facto leader of the conservative wing of the New Jersey GOP for the last six years, by 23 percentage points, according to a poll released last week by Quinnipiac University. Christie has appealed to conservative Republican primary voters through endorsements from other conservatives, including U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton), whose seal of approval among pro-life voters is important.
In 2008, John McCain carried New Jersey's winner-take-all primary, defeating Romney 55%-28%. Rudy Giuliani, a strong Christie supporter, had dominated the early New Jersey endorsement game; after his withdrawal, most of his support went to McCain.
Unless the Legislature changes the law, New Jersey is still looking at an early 2012 Republican presidential primary. And the state continues to provide a wealth of early campaign contributions in national elections.