The significance of Chris Christie's win

I’ve mentioned this before, but Chris Christie is easily the most conservative politician elected to statewide office in New Jersey in the past 60 years, and possibly longer (I don’t know much about the politics of Gov. Alfred Driscoll). In fact, New York Sen. Al D’Amato and Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri are the only two successful GOP politicians from states north or east of Pennsylvania that I can think of who have approached his level of conservatism in recent memory (New Hampshire, always the political black sheep of the Northeast, gets asterisked here).

The normal Republican blueprint in the Northeast is to run as a center-right candidate on fiscal matters and center-left — if not left — on social issues (remember, Christine Todd Whitman opposed a ban on partial-birth abortions). On fiscal matters, Christie has been pretty hawkish, taking on the state’s teachers’ unions, overseeing cuts in spending and lowering taxes. Even on social issues, he has been fairly conservative, especially by Northeastern standards — he’s pro-life, against gay marriage (though he does support civil unions), and he even cut state funding for Planned Parenthood. This is an unusually conservative overall profile for a successful Republican politician in the region, much less for one of the most successful Republican politicians there in a generation.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Christie will match the margin that the RCP Average projects as of today. He’s had something of a ceiling at 59 percent in the surveys, with only pollsters Quinnipiac and Richard Stockton showing him above 60 percent (although the most recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll also shows him clearing that mark. Buono’s numbers have steadily inched upward, indicating that she is receiving the lion’s share of the undecideds. This is unsurprising, given that these undecideds are almost certainly regular Democratic voters (given the overall tilt of the state, Christie has surely secured almost all of the state’s Republican and Republican-leaning Independents).

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