The Corner

More Against Over-interpretation of Christie’s Blow-out

Rich, I agree that readers would do well to consider Henry Olsen’s take on Gov. Christie’s national prospects – specifically, on the morning-after-the-landslide hopes that “his appeal transcends partisan boundaries,” as Henry puts it. Beyond that, though, I’d like to add a detail that is getting very little attention today.

Cory Booker, who is leaps and bounds more popular among Democrats than Christie’s challenger, the relatively unknown Barbara Buono, should have been on the ballot (as a U.S. Senate candidate) here in New Jersey yesterday. But he was not.

After Sen. Frank Lautenberg died, Christie did two things to serve his own presidential ambitions rather than his party and his state. First, while he could have appointed a Republican to finish Lautenberg’s term, which would have given the GOP another vote in the Senate until 2015, Christie opted to hold a quick special election. With Booker chomping at the bit to run, this gave  Democrats a high probability of recapturing the seat over a year earlier — and since Christie, of course, knew this, it was sure to burnish his “bipartisan” credentials for 2016.

Second, rather than holding the special Senate election on Election Day, Christie forced the Garden State to hold it separately, less than three weeks before Election Day. Transparently, this was done because Christie believed he needed not just a win (in an election Democrats were not really contesting) but a blow-out win to enhance his image as the Republican 2016 contender whose appeal transcends partisan boundaries. Christie obviously realized that if Booker’s senate race had been on the ballot the same day as his own gubernatorial reelection bid, many more Democrats would be drawn to the polls. A goodly number of them would have voted for Buono – not enough to beat Christie but enough to deny him the kind of landslide victory he was banking on. So New Jersey taxpayers are now on the hook for the extra $24 million it cost to hold the extra election that enabled Christie to avoid a bigger Democratic turn-out.

Interestingly, even with the lighter Democratic turn-out, exit polling showed Christie trailing Hillary Clinton by six points in New Jersey. So not only is Christie’s landslide margin artificially inflated by his scheduling shenanigans; the significance of his landslide as an indicator of his appeal among Democrats and independents is also overstated.

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