Moderate Christie’s win a message to far-right Republicans

Marty Walsh, son of immigrant parents from Galway, elected mayor of Boston

Chris Christie, alongside his family, addressing his supporters at an election night party in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Chris Christie, alongside his family, addressing his supporters at an election night party in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters


The results of the 2013 off-year US elections are likely to set the parameters for the internal debate among Republicans as the party heads into next year’s mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential race.

The scale of the victory by Republican Chris Christie to a second governor’s term in New Jersey will point Republicans to the significance of a more moderate, compromising approach if they are to appeal to a much broader audience to win back young, black, female and Hispanic voters in the hope of retaking the White House after eight years.

Christie’s win and Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s defeat of a Tea Party favourite to the governor’s seat in the former Republican stronghold of Virginia will shape the debate among Republicans.

The election will leave the party in a period of reflection after last month’s government shutdown exposed tensions between its traditional business supporters and the far-right Tea Party faction, whose leader, Texas senator Ted Cruz, had rallied House Republicans to block a budget deal to keep government open.

Christie, drubbing his little-known Democratic rival Barbara Buono by 60.5 per cent of the vote to 38 per cent, has raised his presidential credentials with this impressive win, showing fellow Republicans that a more centrist approach has a wider appeal and greater chance of regaining the presidency than any more conservative candidate.

Key groups
Exit poll figures showed Christie attracted more support of the vote among key demographic groups increasing his share of the female vote by 11 per cent from his election in 2009, the black vote by 12 per cent and the Hispanic vote by 13 per cent – all voters that Republicans have struggled to win over.

His win lays out a potential roadmap for Republicans in the 2016 election, thrusting the New Jersey politician as a leading contender to be the party’s candidate in a run-off for the White House.

The Republican governor won by a landslide in a traditionally “blue” state where Democrats outnumber Republican voters by more than 700,000. He was boosted by the popularity and national attention he attracted over his response to Superstorm Sandy that devastated the New Jersey coastline last year.

In his victory speech at a convention hall in Asbury Park on the Jersey shore, Christie portrayed himself as a politician who can bridge political divides to find agreement, attacking the dysfunctional nature of the national political scene in the US Congress as illustrated by last month’s 16-day government shutdown.

“I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington should tune into their TV sets right now and see how it is done,” he told his supporters.

Appearing to use his triumphant platform to preach to Republicans and opponents, Christie pointed to how his brand of New Jersey political-dealing has sought to reach consensus with rivals. “We don’t just show up in the places where we’re comfortable, we show up in the places we’re uncomfortable,” he said.

McAuliffe’s defeat of Republican attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, who aligned himself with the far-right Tea Party faction on issues including abortion, for the Virginia governor’s seat marked another victory over hardline Republicans in what was once a party stronghold that twice voted for George W Bush.

Cuccinelli’s socially conservative stance alienated many women voters, while many Virginia residents were turned off by his close association with the Tea Party.

The victory for the former Democratic fundraiser awas much closer than had been projected in polls. McAuliffe won by a margin of 47.9 per cent to 45.5 per cent. Pointing to the state’s continuing swing back to the Democrats, he thanked the “historic number of Republicans who crossed party lines to support me”.

In another bellwether election battle that showed further moderation among Republicans, Bradley Byrne, an establishment candidate, won a vacant Congressional seat in Alabama seeing off a challenge from a hardcore Tea Party conservative, Dean Young, in a deeply conservative district.

Democrat Bill de Blasio won the New York mayoral election with 73 per cent of vote, though the battle to run America’s most populous city has little bearing on the wider national political landscape. De Blasio trumped Republican rival Joe Lhota in a campaign that highlight income inequality in the city.

There was also a significant Irish victory as Massachusetts state congressman Marty Walsh, the son of immigrant parents from Galway, was elected mayor of Boston.