"I feel wonderful," Republican state Senator Joe Pennacchio told PolitickerNJ.com's Matt Friedman tonight after Chris Christie was declared the governor-elect of New Jersey. "A pro-life, pro-gun conservative in a blue state. How did that happen?"
Two words: Jon Corzine.
In the end, the Democratic incumbent hit a ceiling in his reelection campaign. His interminable unpopularity and low approval ratings were insurmountable; a fact shrouded by the rise of a third party candidate who siphoned off what was ultimately a very small slice of the vote.
Surveying the results, it seems independent Chris Daggett either hurt Corzine (which seems incredibly unlikely) or simply softened the blow of what would have been a double-digit Christie victory. New Jersey Democrats even resorted to pumping Republican households with pro-Daggett robocalls and it did nothing. It just goes to show how resilient Jon Corzine's unpopularity is/was.
Want more? Consider these other factors that could not prevent a Corzine loss: Republicans had not won a statewide election in 12 years. In the most recent elections, New Jersey Democrats benefited from late surges at the polls. Corzine outspent Christie by at least a 3-1 margin. The Republican is more unpopular than he is popular, even on election day. Christie's approval ratings are upside down: 48% favorable to 50% unfavorable.
So, how did a Republican like Christie win in New Jersey? By being the least unpopular.
The simple fact of tonight is that Chris Christie did not beat Jon Corzine; Jon Corzine beat Jon Corzine. He was unpopular for a long time, and just about any Republican who won the nomination was going to have an easy time taking him down.
Chris Christie, a major fundraiser for George W. Bush, is the state's 55th governor. Does anyone really think he won this on his own merits?