Chris Christie’s victory has predictably ignited talk of his seeking the presidency. Before his backers start reserving the moving van, though, it’s worth stepping back and calmly surveying what he’s accomplished. For all his notoriety and political acumen, neither his political nor his policy victories are directly translatable to the national stage.
Christie’s backers argue that his tremendous margin in a deep-blue state and his much-larger-than-normal support from blue-collar whites, women, and minorities show that his appeal transcends partisan boundaries. This contention, however, ignores the context in which those margins were obtained. Plenty of Republicans have done well in non-presidential elections among non-traditional GOP voters. Former New Jersey governor Tom Kean won nearly half of the black vote in 1985; former Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler won reelection in his heavily Democratic city because of his appeal among minorities. Neither result was a harbinger of future GOP success. Schundler was unable to transfer his city appeal to his statewide run for governor, and Kean’s accomplishment remains merely a ripple in an otherwise stagnant sea of GOP support among blacks.