Christie is the first New Jersey Republican in a quarter-century to win a majority of votes statewide. And on the same night a Virginia Republican in the governor’s race was routed among women, African Americans and Hispanics, Christie improved on his 2009 showing among minorities while walking away with the women’s vote. For a pro-life conservative running in a deep blue state, it was a performance every bit as dominant as the Boss ripping through a live version of “Rosalita.” And like Springsteen himself, Christie made it all look easy.
The question now is whether his brassy act will play as well in Nashua and Sioux City as it does in Nutley and Asbury Park. The answer rests on what direction a divided Republican Party takes over the next few years.
It’s the latest battle in a long war between GOP purists and pragmatists. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the nomination of Barry Goldwater and the shouting down of Nelson Rockefeller at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. For many conservatives, the Goldwater moment–itself a reaction to the perceived moderation of the Eisenhower years–is a kind of nativity narrative for what’s best about the modern GOP. The story goes like this: conservatives disenchanted with Ike nominated Goldwater, whose defeat made Reagan’s ultimate victory possible.