Obligatory disclaimer: Though I’m generally a fan, I view Chris Christie’s record in New Jersey as a mixed bag, and I realize that many grassroots conservatives loathe the guy. But a party that’s gotten its butt kicked in the last two presidential cycles by appealing to a small and shrinking slice of the electorate ignores the numbers below at its peril. In the latest Quinnipiac poll of the Garden State’s gubernatorial race, Christie has (re)-established a mammoth lead over hapless Democrat Barbara Buono among likely voters:

(1) Christie leads Buono overall 64-30, a staggering 34-point margin. He leads on the only two issues polled — taxes and the economy — by more than 40 percentage points apiece.

(2) The governor is attracting 35 percent of the Democratic vote, 69 percent of independents, and 94 percent of Republicans…

(4) A poll out this week shows President Obama underwater nationally on personal favorability at -2 (47/49). In New Jersey, Christies favorable rating is an astonishing +40 (67/27). He’s at +40 with independents, +33 with women, and tied (44/44) among black voters.

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Recent polling confirms the enormous strides Christie has made with African-Americans in the Garden State — Exhibit A when his supporters point to how Republicans can finally attain a foothold with non-white voters in the coming post-Obama era…

“One of the things we’re most proud of in this campaign is that we’re really playing on our opponent’s turf,” said Christie spokesperson Kevin Roberts. “That has as much to do with the governor’s personality as it does with the way he’s governed for the last three years. He didn’t get into office and ignore inner cities and urban areas.”

Roberts cites Christie’s work on education reform, mandatory drug treatment for nonviolent offenders, and a concerted effort to build close partnerships with local officials as reasons for the governor’s success on this front.

He also offered some succinct advice for other Republican officials serious about expanding their appeal to minorities.

“Look to New Jersey,” Roberts said. “It’s about showing leadership where people have faith in what you’re doing. Even if they don’t necessarily agree with you on every issue, they know where you stand. They know you’re authentic.”

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The governor appears to be working hard for this vote by going into black neighborhoods and introducing himself. “How many Republicans are you going to see walking up and down these streets like this?” a black woman told the Real Clear Politics reporter. “He’s approachable. I really like that. And I think the people in Orange are really thrilled, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, that he’s here.”

Too many Republicans think that merely expressing support for issues like school choice, or giving a speech to the NAACP, is enough to win black support. They would do better to follow Mr. Christie’s example and spend more time in these communities introducing themselves to residents. Earlier this year, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky addressed students at two historically black colleges. The GOP might consider doing more of this type of outreach. It’s an approach that allows Republicans to define themselves instead of letting so-called black leaders define them. And as Mr. Christie is showing, it has the potential to pay dividends on Election Day.

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I’d go as far as to say that Christie’s win would be historic, if the 25pt margin holds. It’s the type of victory that people will remember because it’s so out of the normal historical range. How so?

President Obama won New Jersey by an average 13.9pt more than he won nationally over the past two elections. If the state was going to vote purely in line with its presidential vote, you’d expect Christie to lose by 13.9pt in a neutral year. Christie is running 39.2pt ahead of that pace…

Christie has shrunk the Democratic margin among blacks by about 70pt, against Obama’s share, in New Jersey. He’s done almost the same with Latinos, whom Obama carried in New Jersey by about 60pt – more than 15pt greater than he did nationwide. For a party looking to make inroads with minorities, Christie has done it…

Christie’s been so successful in his campaign that more New Jersey voters think he should run in 2016 than shouldn’t per a recent Quinnipiac poll. Christie has not only gone into a blue state as a Republican governor and convinced many he should be re-elected, but he’s done it even as they know he may run for president. More than that, they like the idea.

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Enter Chris Christie. He could be the bizarro Bill Clinton.

Just as America was willing to accept a “moderate” Democratic governor from a Southern state in 1992, might they be willing to accept a “moderate” Republican from a North-eastern state in 2016? The same combination of political circumstances which allowed Clinton to win in the 90s might allow Christie to win in today’s environment.

(It’s not a perfect analogy, of course. For one thing, it took three presidential losses before Democrats decided they had to have a “come to Jesus talk” with themselves. Republicans have only lost two presidential elections.)

Regardless, even if Christie did win, we can still argue over whether or not this would be a good thing for conservatives. Clinton’s election was a tacit admission that the Old Left was over — that liberals had overreached during the 1960s and 70s (and after). Would a Christie presidency be a concession that only a moderate Republican can survive in The Obama Era? Would Christie have to have a reverse Sister Souljah moment during the campaign? And once elected, would he then have to declare “the era of big government is back?”

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New Jersey’s economy is a mess, even compared with its neighbors. The property tax burden is up sharply. Poverty is rising. And the state’s credit rating has dropped on Christie’s watch as the long-range outlook deteriorates. His successor will inherit a bigger mess than he did.

Crime is spiking in several of New Jersey’s hard-pressed cities, where loss of state aid has forced massive police layoffs. The state’s home foreclosure rate is the second highest in the nation and Christie fumbled a federal aid program intended to soften the blow. Yet he tried to raid a fund earmarked for affordable housing until the courts stopped him…

[Yet Christie’s opponent] faces a political puzzle that seems impossible to solve: Voters agree with her that Christie has failed to tackle the state’s biggest problems, but they love him anyway. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Friday showed that most people disapprove of his handling of the economy, taxes and education. But he still received 60 percent approval overall.

“It has to do with his style, it really does,” says Patrick Murray, who runs the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “He’s the first person to come in and say, ‘I’m going to do something drastic’ and people give him credit for that.”

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said in an interview set to air on “CBS Sunday Morning” this weekend that he’s not a bully.

“No, I am not a bully. But what I am is a fighter,” Christie said in the interview. “I think a bully is abusive. And a fighter is someone who’s willing to mix it up to defend his or her point of view.”

Christie has been accused by his political enemies of being a bully, and a poll last year showed 45 percent of New Jerseyans used that word to describe him. (The other choice was “leader”; Christie has since become much more popular and is heavily favored to win reelection.)

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