Ramesh, I’d say that the two biggest factors in Christie’s success in New Jersey are 1) the New Jersey constitution grants him extraordinarily broad powers in drawing up budgets (he is probably the most constitutionally powerful governor in the country) and 2) he is not primarily concerned with re-election. Or, if we’re being cynical, replace (2) with ‘he is convinced he can win by assuming leadership on politically thorny, but momentous, issues.’
You won’t be surprised to hear that I think Congressional Republicans are in a position to enjoy, mutatis mutandis, both advantages. The president may have a kind of ‘soft power’ on the budget, but his only hard power is the veto. As for (2) the House this year — and perhaps only this year — seems temporarily moved by a spirit of damn-the-torpedoes brought in by the Tea Party. Let’s seize on it!