The NJ gubernatorial election result demonstrates that Governor-elect Chris Christie resurrected the center-right voter coalition of Republicans, Independents, and conservative and moderate Democrats that has always produced Republican victories. Even Christie Whitman failed to do this in both her elections for Governor.
Christie was able to hold social conservatives on the right, but appeal on economic grounds to moderates and independents, to forge the largest electoral majority for a state Republican since Tom Kean in 1985.
Indeed the new Christie Majority cuts across both parties, and all regions of the state. While several GOP-leaning counties produced eye-popping numbers (Ocean and Monmouth), Christie's win was not a regional one. It was a state-wide phenomenon. The new Governor won Middlesex and Gloucester counties, and came closer than expected in places like Union county.
It was a re-alignment of historic proportions, and one that will give the Governor-elect a major base of political support that Legislative Democrats will ignore or challenge at their own peril.
While the election certainly turned on an ineffective and unpopular incumbent Governor, the backdrop of the race was influenced by the uneasiness and uncertainty of the electorate, especially independent voters, about their own economic future.
I had written earlier that I thought President Obama had started to turn around his free-fall in public opinion, by going before Congress in September and attempting to sell his health care ideas. Unfortunately for him, in subsequent weeks the true facts of what was emerging from Congress stubbornly persisted in driving independent and moderate voters away from the President's position.
It appears that the President and his advisors are not reading the national mood correctly, inasmuch as moderate and independent voters are just not buying their version of more government intervention in the economy, skyrocketing deficits, and higher taxes.
The President's own pollsters and strategists completely missed the tsunami that was hitting NJ on November 3, as they confidently told media sources that Governor Corzine would be re-elected by 2-6 points. The only person who had a worse day last Wednesday than Jon Corzine was Joel Benenson, the President's pollster, who had to report to the President why he completely missed an 8-10 point swing, and why he was wrong to advise the President to put his prestige on the line (again) for a Sunday appearance before the election.
In NJ, Obama has lately enjoyed only a 1:1 approval ratio among independent voters. And this in a state which gave him a 15 point victory just one year ago. It is evidence that the direction the national Democrats are heading may be too extreme for mainstream public opinion in this country.
Republicans all over the country should certainly hope that the Obama advisors and national Democrats continue to ignore the warning signs from moderates and independents, and continue to pursue policies that are turning off centrist voters. If 2010 is anything like 2009, it will be a good year for Republicans all over America.