Christie win could send strong message to GOP about 2016 presidential bid

Even in a deep blue state, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to coast into a second term Tuesday in his reelection race against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.

If he wins big – as is expected – it will send a strong message to members of his own party about his popularity with voters and could set him up for a 2016 presidential run.

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 reminder 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.

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

Some social conservatives also 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.