Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Local News

November 13, 2013

Can Christie be the Republican Bill Clinton?

Chris Christie couldn’t have been any more obvious about his 2016 intentions if he had begun his victory speech Tuesday with the words “My fellow Americans” and ended it with a balloon drop.

He offered New Jersey as an example for national healing. “Tonight,” he said, “a dispirited America, angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say ‘Is what I think’s happening really happening? Are people really coming together?’”

Trenton, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

None of this was subtle, but Christie had certainly earned it. Almost every decision he’s made — sometimes shamelessly so — has been geared to making the rubble bounce in his re-election and then using his crushing victory as a credential in an incipient national campaign. He succeeded brilliantly on his own terms.

In a state President Barack Obama won by 17 points in 2012, Christie won 60 percent overall. He won Latinos outright and took 21 percent of the black vote. He won women and men. He won high school graduates and people with advanced degrees. He won people making more than $200,000 and people making less than $50,000.

These numbers are eye-popping. If they were automatically transferable to the national stage, Hillary Clinton would have to give it up and content herself with giving $200,000 speeches for Goldman Sachs forevermore. But they aren’t.

As Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center points out, essentially uncontested races against badly overmatched opponents aren’t a predictor of anything. William Weld won 70 percent of the vote and every county in Massachusetts in his 1994 re-election as governor, then lost by 7 points to John Kerry in a 1996 Senate race in which the map of Massachusetts snapped back to its natural state.

Granted, getting into a position where you can run essentially uncontested against a badly overmatched opponent in a major race is an achievement in itself.

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