Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will likely win reelection in a major landslide. The Republican governor’s immense success in dark blue New Jersey means that millennials, hungry for bipartisanship, and the GOP, eager to broaden its appeal, should look to Christie as a model for the future.
Polls project Governor Christie will win his second term as New Jersey governor by double digits, some project by as much as 30%. Unlike many Republicans, Christie does not struggle with the women's vote. He also wins independents 73% to 22%. Most impressively, 58% of elected Democrats publicly support Christie.
Christie’s success stems from his realism. He understands that when representing a state in which Republicans are not the majority, he needs more than just the votes of Republicans in order to win. Framing himself as a Republican who only cares about Republicans would ensure failure.
In order to win elections and serve constituents in areas where the predominant party is not yours, working across party lines is necessary. Politicians are elected to represent the people, so a successful politician convinces constituents of his willingness to compromise and to represent them, not just his own party.
Although many equate “compromise” with “compromising values,” few would disagree with such an equivalence more than President Ronald Reagan.
In a USA Today column, Ford O’Connell brings to mind an inherent political truth: “To win elections, you need to show people that you're for them, even if they're not (yet) for you.” Reagan mastered this, which led to the term “Reagan Democrat.” Christie has accomplished similar feats.
O’Connell pointed out that Christie has a lot in common with former President( and California Governor) Reagan. Both blue-state governors made innumerable conservative strides, while working with Democrats.
In California, Reagan balanced the state’s budget, worked with Democrats to change welfare, and even “signed into law the nation's first no-fault divorce legislation.” Similarly, Christie has gained a reputation of working with Democrats to produce conservative legislation. New Jersey has welcomed “spending cuts, pension reform, public employee benefits reform, and teacher tenure reform.”
O’Connell noted that much like Christie, Reagan was often criticized for being too moderate. He likens the conservative icon to Christie, and says the New Jersey governor can serve as a model of “political genius.”
Most conservatives’ beef with Christie stems entirely from one event. He was a conservative favorite until he embraced President Obama during the Hurricane Sandy crisis. He was arguably fulfilling his duty as governor — helping his state during an emergency. O’Connell notes that Christie simultaneously brought relief to his state, rose above “petty politics” during a crisis, and maintained ideological principle.
Had he been hostile to Obama, in order to ensure President Obama gained no favorability shortly before the election, Christie could have jeopardized the wellbeing of his state. A governor’s job is to govern and to protect his people during emergencies, not to play politics during a crisis.
Millennials, like most Americans, want politicians to lead and work across the aisle. If a politician does little more than talk a good game and stand rigidly against compromise, it does not benefit his constituents. Millennials can look to Christie as a model of successful bipartisanship.
The GOP claims to be the party of small government and giving local government more say. This means Republicans should champion state-level success and good Republican governors. Christie fits this ideal, so if he does run for president in 2016, as many suspect and hope he will, he will have a lot going for him. His success in his dark blue state also means he'd have a good chance of faring well in the general election.
O’Connell argues Republicans need to take a lesson from Christie if they hope to broaden their appeal and win.
While many politicians claim to be the “second coming” of Reagan, Christie seems to have more proof behind him in that regard. As it turns out, Reagan’s political reincarnation may be the answer to Republicans’ and millennials’ problems.