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Chris Christie wins New Jersey, DC next?

06 November 2013, 07:43

New York - New Jersey governor Chris Christie claimed an overwhelming re-election victory on Tuesday, propelling him to the top of a list of Republican White House hopefuls for 2016.

The 51-year-old strode out before supporters with wife Mary Pat and punched the air to the chorus of Stevie Wonder's soul classic "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours."

"We have a big, big win tonight," he told the crowd. "I did not seek a second term to do small things, I sought a second term to finish the job, now watch me do it."

The father of four with a larger-than-life personality fared better than rival Barbara Buono among women, black and Hispanic groups Republicans typically have an uphill battle winning over.

Christie's cross-party appeal comes with Republicans deeply divided, unpopular and appearing severely weakened by the recent budget crisis forced by its far-right Tea Party faction.

He appealed to unity and getting his job done, a veiled reference to the ideological bickering of the Republican party in Washington.

Minority support

"I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington, DC should tune in their TVs right now to see how it's done," he said.

Reince Priebus, chairperson of the Republican National Committee, was the first to congratulate Christie.

He said Christie's "significant support" among minority voters was a testament to his leadership and an inclusive campaign, engaging with black, Hispanic and Asian voters.

Christie's win will cement his status as a favourite to win the Republican nomination for the White House in 2016 given his pragmatism, charisma and ability to command cross-party support.

Ahead of Tuesday's election, 61% said they would vote for Christie, compared to 33% for Buono in the traditionally Democrat state hard hit by last year's Hurricane Sandy.

Mitt Romney, the former 2012 Republican presidential candidate who ran and lost against Barack Obama, recently spoke out in favour of Christie.

"Chris could easily become our nominee and save our party and help get this nation on the right track again," he told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Until recently, the moderate Christie (known for his no nonsense manner, his energy and his empathy and plus-sized waistline) was always evasive about how far his ambitions go.

But there is a political overtone to virtually all his decisions.

In February, when he had a lap-band fitted in a bid to lose weight, he announced it was to safeguard his long-term health.

"White House 2016" murmured the commentators.

Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, he strode the ravaged coastline of New Jersey alongside Obama shortly before the commander-in-chief's re-election.

Republic hardliners were furious, but his popularity only climbed.

In January 2013, he slammed the Republican-led House of Representatives for taking weeks to vote through desperately needed relief for Sandy victims.

A White House run next?

He is against abortion but rarely speaks out on the issue.

He opposed same-sex marriage, but on 21 October withdrew a legal challenge after the first weddings went ahead as ruled by a judge.

He also signed a law strengthening arms control in New Jersey after a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Connecticut killed 20 children and six adults last December.

And this weekend, he readily admitted his re-election could be construed as a stepping stone toward the White House in 2016.

"I'm not planning for it; I just think it's inevitable," he told NBC when asked if a victory could be seen an opportunity to spread a message to voters beyond his own State.

"People look at elections and they try to discern things about what they mean at that moment and what they mean for the future," Christie added.

"I think that what people are going to see is so unusual for what our party has created in the last couple years, which invariably people are going to draw lessons from it and I hope that they do."



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