Socially conservative positions on hot-button issues don’t seem to be a deal-breaker even for the much more liberal voters of New Jersey. Christie has vetoed legislation to grant state recognition to same-sex marriage — a judge later ordered it, though Christie briefly appealed — and vetoed bills to fund Planned Parenthood five times.
He does not, however, seem obsessed by social issues: Democrats haven’t gotten much mileage out of ads saying that his priorities are different from those of voters, as they have against Cuccinelli. Christie has also avoided taking unpopular socially conservative stands on issues that aren’t live debates, and taken the occasional opportunity to soften his profile.
If the polls hold up, Cuccinelli’s defeat may demoralize social conservatives — especially if the news media spin the defeat as a sign that their concerns are a millstone around the neck of Republican politicians. Christie’s likely re-election shows that such an interpretation is wrong. Being a social conservative is not by itself a political death sentence even in deep-blue territory.