Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., got a lot of mileage during his campaign this year by highlighting his avoirdupois. “Say I’m fat,” he challenged the Democrat he ended up unseating, Jon Corzine, after an ad campaign that seemed to take a sly dig at Christie’s physique.
The pudgy Jersey Boy has morphed into the rock star of 2010. He may not be ready to run an actual marathon, but Christie certainly is clocking the political version. In this year’s midterm campaign, the rookie governor has become a red-hot commodity in blue-hued states.
On Sunday, the governor was in Massachusetts stumping for Charlie Baker, a GOP candidate hoping to repeat the triumph that Christie achieved last year when he knocked off a well-funded Democratic governor.
"A year ago Governor Christie, against all odds, defeated an incumbent governor in an overwhelmingly blue state in a difficult three-way campaign," Baker e-mailed supporters last week announcing Christie's visit. "Sound familiar?"
In Baker’s case, the victory would be sweetened by the fact that the incumbent in Massachusetts is Deval Patrick, a close friend of President Obama.
Although the tea party effect is getting the most attention this year, Christie is working for a different kind of Republican--dare we say, Rockfeller Republican? He’s focusing his attention on candidates who need to appeal to suburban independent voters, not exactly Sarah Palin’s constituency.
As a surrogate with strong crossover appeal, he fills a role once played by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and it's a role that few modern Republicans can play convincingly. Although Christie’s isn't nearly the frequent campaign flier that GOP presidential potentials Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich are, a Hotline tabulation indicates that he has helped more blue-state Republicans than any GOP surrogate but Romney.
Christie has stumped for eight Republicans running for governor in states that voted Democratic in the last two presidential races, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Next weekend, he'll head to Minnesota for that state’s GOP gubernatorial nominee, Tom Emmer.
Mike Duhaime, a senior Christie adviser, confirmed the trend. “You do see a pattern of blue-leaning Democratic states,” he said. Christie has "shown the ability not only to win in those areas but to forge a bipartisan consensus.”
All this, and Christie is a tea party darling, too. Earlier this month, he won a presidential straw poll at a tea party convention he didn’t even attend. But will the tea party continue to love him once they get a closer look at the way Christie operates?
“He wants to support people who in his mind will govern the way he’s governed,” Duhaime said. “The more colleagues governing in his mold, the easier it’ll be for him to get things done.”