Republican Christie re-elected N.J. governor, hints at White House run

Reuters

By Victoria Cavaliere

ASBURY PARK, N.J., Nov 5 (Reuters) - New Jersey RepublicanGovernor Chris Christie resoundingly won re-election on Tuesday,winning support across the political spectrum and immediatelychallenging Washington to follow his lead in a victory speechthat could be seen as a start to the 2016 presidential campaign.

The blunt, tough-talking incumbent had been expected to win.His margin of victory, more than 20 percentage points by anearly estimate, showed a possible path to the White House for aRepublican party struggling nationally with a revolt by itsconservative Tea Party wing.

Christie won votes from Republicans, Democrats andindependents, and in his speech he dwelled heavily on hisphilosophy of working with those who voted against him, as wellas allies.

"It is possible to put doing your job first, to put workingtogether first, to fight for what you believe in yet still standby your principles and get something done for the people whoelected you," Christie told hundreds of cheering supporters atthe Asbury Park convention center.

"I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybethe folks in Washington, D.C. should tune in their TVs right nowand see how it's done," he added, in what could be seen as arebuke to Tea Party Republicans as well as Democrats, whosedifficulty compromising nearly drove the federal government todefault last month.

"That was not an acceptance speech. That was an announcementspeech," CNN analyst Alex Castellanos said after Christie spoke.

The next presidential election is still three years away,and Christie, while widely expected to run, has not declared hewill do so. The win should let him approach national donors withconfidence.

"Obviously it lets him make a claim that he's the kind ofRepublican who can get Democratic and minority votes," saidDavid Redlawsk, a polling expert and professor of politicalscience at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Christie was projected the winner, within minutes of thepolls closing, by CNN, CBS and NBC. He was ahead of hisDemocratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono, by 60percent to 38 percent, according to late but incomplete resultson NJ.com.

"He speaks his mind. It's not all sound bites, which isrefreshing," said Gregory Christie, of Wall, New Jersey, addinghe was not related to the governor.

"(He can) work well across the aisle," he added. "That'svery important to me."

Christie had the support of 23 percent of Democrats, 52percent of women, 42 percent of Hispanics and 19 percent ofblacks among likely voters, according to a Monmouth Universitypoll released on Monday.

"The challenge for Christie is that right now, that's notnecessarily a winning message within the Republican Party,"Rutgers' Redlawsk said. "The Republican Party still has a battleto fight within itself between purity and electability."

WORKING ACROSS THE AISLE

A former prosecutor, Christie has been highly visibleworking with Democrats, such as newly elected U.S. Senator CoryBooker, the former mayor of Newark.

He notably praised President Barack Obama last year for hisresponse to New Jersey's needs after Superstorm Sandy devastatedthe state. That gesture, which Christie explained was part ofhis job, infuriated many national Republicans who thought ithurt their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, days later atthe ballot box.

Christie's popularity has remained high since the stormswept ashore and caused billions of dollars in damage anddisplaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Rutgers' Redlawsk added that another challenge for Christiewill be how his "Jersey attitude" plays nationally. The governoris known for engaging in shouting matches and hurling insults -a habit seen as refreshing by his fans and rude by his critics.

"It's hard to know how that's going to play when peoplestart thinking about the guy being president and talking toworld leaders with whom we might disagree," Redlawsk said.

Christie also is willing to poke fun at himself, makingjokes about his weight, which he struggles with, and appearingon comedy television shows such as "Saturday Night Live" and"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," where he once explained hispenchant for name calling.

"If you are an idiot, I'm going to call you an idiot,"Christie said. "And if you don't like it, then stop acting likean idiot."

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