ASBURY PARK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie was re-elected with ease Tuesday, demonstrating the kind of broad, bipartisan appeal that will serve as his opening argument should he seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
With 83 percent of precincts reporting, Christie had 60 percent of the vote to Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono’s 39 percent, putting him en route to become the first Republican in a quarter-century to receive more than 50 percent of the New Jersey vote.
This, in a state that President Barack Obama carried a year ago by more than 17 points, his biggest margin in the nation.
“Thank you, New Jersey, for making me the luckiest guy in the world,” Christie said in a victory speech late Tuesday in the shore town of Asbury Park.
After a campaign that centered more on his record and personality than his agenda for a second term, he told supporters that he has big plans for education reform and tax cuts, among other issues.
“I did not seek a second term to do small things,” he said. “I sought a second term to finish the job. Now watch me do it.”
Christie performed strongly across the political spectrum. Interviews with voters as they left polling places found Christie re-elected with broad support among whites, independents, moderates, voters over 40 and those opposing the health care law, among others.
He did well among groups that typically lean Democratic, carrying a majority of women and splitting Hispanics with Buono. And Christie improved on his share of the vote among blacks in 2009 by more than 10 percentage points.
In the nation’s only other gubernatorial race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been elected Virginia’s next governor, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli after pledging to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls and portraying his rival as someone who would turn back years of progress.
McAuliffe received 47 percent to Cuccinelli’s 46 percent, with 97 precincts reporting.
Turnout was low, and both candidates worked through Election Day to reach as many potential voters as possible.
McAuliffe, who once led the Democratic National Committee and is a confidant of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, said he would expand Medicaid to provide health coverage for 400,000 people under the federal health care law. By contrast, Cuccinelli, the state’s current attorney general, vehemently opposed the law and tried to cast the election as a referendum on President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
The McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race was widely considered a bellwether for the 2014 midterm elections, when control of Congress is up for grabs.