Yet another poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race shows Republican Chris Christie with an outrageous lead over his Democratic opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono. According to the most recent survey from Farleigh Dickinson University’s polling center, PublicMind, Christie holds a 19 point lead over Buono, 59 percent to 40 percent. Likewise, he holds a favorability rating of 62 percent, compared to Buono’s 39 percent.
But none of this is interesting. There’s no question that Christie will win his race in a landslide, it’s only a matter of the margin. What remains fascinating about this race is the governor’s performance with minority voters. In the PublicMind survey, for instance, Christie picks up 33 percent of “nonwhites.” There’s no further breakdown, but you only have to look at the latest Quinnipiac University poll to see what this means: He takes 29 percent of black voters to Buono’s 61 percent. And among Latino voters, depending on the poll, he’s either tied or ahead by slight margins. Both are huge increases over his 2009 totals, where he took just 9 percent of African Americans and 27 percent of Hispanics.
That’s nothing less than astounding for a Republican, and especially so for a conservative Republican in a traditionally Democratic state. And it’s the reason—as the Wall Street Journal notes this morning—that Christie is working to pitch himself as the most electable candidate for 2016:
“This is a model for the party in general,” said Bill Palatucci, Mr. Christie’s campaign chairman and a national GOP committeeman. “His message is that you can’t come to any community and ask for them to vote for you a month before the election.”
It’s both important not to overstate the importance of electability in a presidential primary–it didn’t help Jon Huntsman in last year’s contest—and not to dismiss it. Yes, Christie doesn’t have the right-wing bona fides of his likely competitors, but he can credibly claim to have real appeal to Democratic voters. And it’s not hard to see how he did this; by actively working with their communities and showing basic respect for President Obama, Christie show minorities that he cared about their concerns, even if he disagreed with some of their policies.
This isn’t a small thing; a nominee who can return the GOP to its historic performance with African American voters and other minorities, is a Christie who has done substantial damage to Democratic chances. Without the near unanimous support of blacks, Democrats have a much harder time in newly purple states like Virginia and North Carolina, as well as large swing states like Ohio and Florida.
Not that this means much to the Republican voters will have to choose a candidate in three years, but for the Democrats working to keep their hold on the White House, it’s worth worrying about.