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Christie cruises to 2nd term as NJ governor

 

Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly reelected Republican Gov. Chris Christie to a second term Tuesday over Democratic challenger Barbara Buono.

While the final margin of victory over Buono was still being tabulated, Christie was expected to become the first Republican in a quarter-century to receive more than 50 percent of the New Jersey vote.

Buono conceded the race and told her supporters about 40 minutes after the polls closed that she had called Christie to congratulate him.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Christie told supporters that he has big plans for education reform and tax cuts, among other issues.

"Thank you, New Jersey, for making me the luckiest guy in the world," Christie said.  "I did not seek a second term to do small things. I sought a second term to finish the job. Now watch me do it."

Earlier in the day, Christie, who cannot seek a third term, told people after he voted in Mendham, N.J., that it was the last time he'd be running for elected office in the state.

"I don't know if I'll ever have another chance to vote for myself," he said. "I won't ever run for another office in New Jersey, I can guarantee that. This is it for me."

Christie’s state win sends a strong message to members of his own party about his popularity with voters and could set him up for a 2016 presidential run.

The New Jersey governor has openly said he’s considering running for president and says his success with Republicans as well as with moderates offers a way for broadening the GOP’s appeal after the party bombed the past two presidential elections and is heading into next year’s midterms with record-low approval ratings.

Christie’s national profile will raise even higher when he becomes chairman of the Republican Governors Association later this month.

That’s a 180 degree turn from what Mitt Romney's political advisers thought of him as a potential 2012 running mate, according to a new book.

The book “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, chronicles the political flirtation with and eventual dismissal of Christie by Romney and his political team.

According to the book, Romney’s advisers codenamed Christie “Pufferfish,” and their patience with him wore thin over chronic tardiness to joint political fundraisers and alleged diva demands of star treatment, including lavish travel arrangements.

Ultimately, Christie was dropped as a candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan was chosen as Romney’s running mate.

Still, Christie was able to strike a chord with Republicans and moderates and his continued popularity was among the few bright spots for the GOP during the 2012 election cycle.

For Christie, winning in a landslide Tuesday would be sweet revenge and a possible nudge to the GOP that its base should think about him to lead the party.

While campaigning Sunday night at a rally held by the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, Christie told the crowd, “We need to show the Republican Party in America that we can win again. And guess where they’re going to be watching on Tuesday night to see if we can win: right here in New Jersey.”

On Monday, he was a little more scaled back, warning supporters not to take anything for granted.

"We are Republicans in New Jersey," the GOP governor said inside his packed Monmouth County headquarters. "You have to work and earn every vote you get in this state as a Republican. We're a minority party in this state."

Christie’s handling of Superstorm Sandy – which caused billions in damage – endeared him to many in his state, though his combativeness over storm aid caused friction within the party.

Rutgers public policy professor Cliff Zukin says Christie’s Sandy efforts reinforced his standing among rank-and-file Republicans through “visibility in a crisis setting,” but will probably hurt him among conservative Republican Party leaders.

“Many … were very upset he ‘helped’ Obama given the proximity of Sandy to the national election,” Zukin told FoxNews.com.

Some social conservatives also still seem on the fence about Christie.

On Friday, a southern New Jersey couple sued the governor over his signing of a bill banning so-called gay conversion therapy.

The couple claims that the bill Christie signed into law in August violates their constitutional rights.

Specifically, they argue that the law violates their rights to free speech and freedom of religion because it prevents them from seeking treatment for their 15-year-old son.