McCain and Romney both lost. They didn’t lose because they were too moderate. Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections. Nominating someone like Christie, someone with bipartisan appeal, may be the only way Republicans can win.

Only one other state is electing a governor this year – Virginia, where the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, is a hard-line social conservative and a Tea Party favorite. The polls in Virginia indicate a close race.

Suppose Cuccinelli loses in Virginia and Christie wins big in New Jersey this year. It would break a pattern that has held in Virginia since 1977, where the year following every presidential election, Virginia elects a governor from the party that just lost the White House. New Jersey has done the same thing since 1989. A Christie victory this year in New Jersey would keep that tradition going.

There would be a message in that result. A Tea Party Republican like Cuccinelli can’t hold a Southern state like Virginia where Republicans are highly competitive. But a mainstream Republican like Christie can win all over the country.