Not incidentally, Christie was able to win 31 percent of Democratic voters, despite taking on the teachers union and other liberal sacred cows while refusing to raise taxes even as he tackled a multibillion-dollar budget gap. And he can credibly point to a record of leadership built on forging bipartisan solutions in the state Legislature. As Christie said in his largely ad-libbed victory speech: “We stand here tonight showing that it is possible to put doing your job first. To put working together first. To fight for what you believe in yet still stand by our principles and get something done for the people who elected you.” That is a clear rebuke to partisan politics as usual in Washington, guaranteed to resonate with the swing voters who ultimately decide elections.
Bottom line: On Tuesday night, Christie went a long way toward establishing himself as the Republican Bill Clinton, a charismatic candidate able to re-center his party and reach out beyond the base even in traditionally hostile territory. Hard-core conservatives might call him a RINO—a Republican in Name Only—but there’s another name for it. A winner.