TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — 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.
Christie dominated Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono on Tuesday in an election that was never in doubt. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Christie had 60 percent of the vote to Buono’s 38 percent, according to unofficial returns.
However, the buzz Wednesday was not about Christie’s big win in New Jersey, but about his political future.
Christie spent the day at Jose Marti Freshman Academy in Union City and was introduced as “New Jersey’s greatest governor, Gov. Chris Christie.”
At the school, Christie looked like he was campaigning for another ambition — a run for the presidency in 2016, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
Again he said no to a presidential run, adding, “I got re-elected to do a job last night, and that is the job I am going to do.”
However, he did leave the door open, Sloan reported.
“If the time comes and I change my mind on that and I want to do something else, I will tell the people of New Jersey I want to do some thing else,” Christie said.
No Republican running statewide had reached 50 percent of vote since George H.W. Bush in 1988. Christie did it by expanding his support among a number of groups that Republicans traditionally find it hard to win over.
Interviews with voters as they left polling places found the 51-year-old governor was re-elected with support from 70 percent of whites, 61 percent of moderates, 66 percent of independents, and 61 percent of voters over 30.
But even though he lost among those younger than 30, they supported the governor by 13 percentage points more than in 2009.
He also saw double-digit increases from Democrats (an increase of 24 points), liberals (22 points), Hispanics (19 points), those without college degrees (14 points), suburban residents (14 points), those with household incomes under $100,000 (13 points) and blacks (12 points), exit polls showed.
Christie held his first appearance the day after getting re-elected in a heavily Latino city. Last week, he campaigned with New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, and in this election he got half of the New Jersey’s Latino vote, having gotten virtually none last time.
Christie said he got the Latino votes by listening, and said, “Of all the things that happened last night, that’s the thing I am most gratified about — to win the Latino vote in this state.”
Christie said his goal during his second term is to get thousands of Superstorm Sandy victims back into their homes, but analysts say that his increased support helps set the stage for a possible presidential run in 2016.
“He’s going to have that bi-partisan calling card,” said CBS News director of elections Anthony Salvanto. “I think you’re going to see him a lot in the national spotlight, certainly in the Republican party now, saying this is how you govern and this is how you govern across the aisle.”
In his victory speech, some of the biggest cheers came when Christie said Washington could learn from what he has done in New Jersey.
“Maybe the folks in Washington D.C. should turn on their TV’s right now and see how it’s done,” he said.
But voters in New Jersey as a whole were not wildly enthusiastic about Christie as president. Fifty-one percent said he would make a good president.
When asked whether they preferred Christie or Hillary Rodham Clinton as president if they both ran in 2016, they supported the Democrat 48 percent to 44 percent.
Christie will take over later this month as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a position that will further raise his national profile.
Christie’s aides confirmed that President Barack Obama placed a congratulatory call to the governor earlier Wednesday. Christie actually missed the call, but he called the president back.
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