After winning reelection by an overwhelming margin, Gov. Chris Christie took the stage Tuesday night to give a victory speech not just to supporters in New Jersey, but also to the rest of the United States, who might be asked to vote for him in 2016.
Appearing before supporters in Asbury Park with his wife and four children, Christie frequently reminded listeners of his role helping the state recover from Superstorm Sandy, as well as his history of bipartisanship.
“We stand here tonight showing it is possible to put doing your job first, to put working together first, to fight for what you believe in, yet still stand by your principles and get something done for the people who elected you,” he said, to cheers. “I know that if we can do this in Trenton, N.J., maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TVs right now, see how it’s done.”
With more than four-fifths of the precincts reporting, Christie had captured 60% of the vote, making him the first Republican governor to get more than 50% of the vote in New Jersey since 1985.
Three weeks ago, New Jersey voters had elected Democrat Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate with 55% of the vote.
Exit polls indicate that Christie performed strongly across demographic groups. Nearly half of Latinos voted for him, a 16-point increase from his 2009 win against incumbent Jon Corzine. Christie received 20% of the African American vote, double what he received in 2009. He also saw a bump in female supporters, winning 55% of women voters.
The strong support across those groups is something Christie referred to in his speech, specifically speaking to viewers who might be watching the speech from across the country.
“Tonight, a dispirited America angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington looks to New Jersey to say, ‘Is what I think happening really happening? Are people really coming together, are we really working, African Americans and Hispanics, suburbanites and city dwellers, farmers and teachers, are we really all working together?' Let me give the answer to everyone who is watching tonight: Under this government, our first job is to get the job done, and as long as I’m governor, that job will always, always be finished.”
The natural disaster a year ago that helped propel his easy reelection was never far from view. Christie referred to a “spirit of Sandy,” a term coined by a Baptist pastor, and said that he was governing by that spirit, promising not to leave anyone from New Jersey behind.
Christie’s challenger, Democrat Barbara Buono, gave a concession speech not long after polls in New Jersey closed. In her speech, she criticized the Democratic political establishment in New Jersey, which she said gave the race to Christie. Buono received almost no financial or organizational backing from the Democratic Party. She also continued to criticize Christie for his record on gay marriage, women’s issues and education.
“Like me, you saw another New Jersey, where our women and our students and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have been left behind,” she said to supporters. “And you, my friends, you decided to fight for them.”
In his speech, the famously garrulous Christie had an opportunity to ad lib. In one part, when he was speaking about hugs he gives to New Jersey residents, someone in the audience yelled, “We love you, Chris!”
“You’ll get your hug later, brother,” he answered.
A few more loud expressions of warmth rang out from the crowd.
“I guess there is open bar tonight,” Christie joked. “Welcome to New Jersey.”