Obviously the national Congressional elections this week will have a huge impact on what goes on (or doesn’t go on) in Washington over the next two years. The Republicans will control the House, and the Democrats will maintain the slightest of margins in the Senate. President Barack Obama is already taking responsibility for the Democrat’s embarrassing outcome, but the larger question is, how will he govern as President with a divided Congress, with many GOP members looking to promote the status quo, not to mention looking ahead to the 2012 presidential campaign.
But what about New Jersey? What impact did this election have on the political landscape in our state? One biggie is that freshman Congressmen Democrat John Adler has been thrown out of office by the hulking former NFL Eagles Star John Runyan in the 3rd Congressional District in South Jersey. Runyan, who had a spotty voting record as a citizen (apparently NFL football practices on Tuesdays conflicted with his responsibility to vote on Election Day) may not have known much about the issues, but he clearly tapped into the anger and resentment toward any incumbent member of Congress—including John Adler.
Adler often came off as trying to show how smart he was about the Constitution and how government works, attempting to make Runyan look stupid by asking him in a televised debate to identify a recent Supreme Court case with which he disagreed. Runyan was dumfounded and named a case from a totally different century, but apparently voters were less interested in who the winner of a civics contest was than electing a Tea Party backed Republican who was promising “change” in Washington. No specifics, just change to something called “common sense conservatism”, whatever that means.
But beyond Runyan beating Adler and two Democratic incumbent Congressmen, Frank Pallone in the 6th and Rush Holt in the 12th, hanging on and beating the Republican tide had another important outcome of this election for New Jersey. Simply put, Governor Chris Christie’s national political star is more firmly established than anyone could have imagined in such a short amount of time. He is the new Sarah Palin of the GOP, only smarter, more savvy and grounded in reality. He is the guy whose endorsement everyone wants and who everyone wants to speak at their rally. Republicans want Christie to come in and raise money and pump up the crowd. He’s gotten his butt kissed from coast to coast over the last few months and I am sure he is enjoying it. Wouldn’t you? He, and not Sarah Palin, is the governor who actually governs like a chief executive is supposed to, making tough calls and yes, sometimes making mistakes, but all the while making decisions about problems and issues that too often have been ducked in the state capital.
I agree, he is sometimes a bull in the China shop, but apparently that’s what a lot of voters are looking for, not just in New Jersey, but nationally. Christie understands how to negotiate and doesn’t threaten to use a baseball bat to clean up the state capital as wacky Carl Palidino did in New York, but rather hits you in the head with the baseball bat when he is looking right at you. He tells you exactly what he is going to do, and then he does it. Just remember, that as this campaign was in the homestretch, Chris Christie gave a final and emphatic “no” to the ARC tunnel. That was huge. I’m not convinced he was totally right, but I respect him for saying he wasn’t going to do it unless other people (the Feds, New York, or the Port Authority) put up some additional hard cash that would help New Jersey tax payers avoid being on the hook for any cost overruns for what would have been the largest public works projects in U.S. history.
And, don’t kid yourself, it’s not just Republicans who are trying to emulate Christie’s “in your face” Jersey style. Andy Cuomo, the governor-elect of New York, is a Democrat but is trying to talk a lot like Chris Christie, saying he is going to do many of the things Christie has done in the Garden State—particularly when it comes to government spending. So what’s the outcome of this election on New Jersey politics? A former NFL lineman with the Eagles who was known for playing pretty dirty on the field is joining the delegation. A couple of other Democrats in Congress barely held on to their seats. And Chris Christie? He is an even bigger rock star on the political scene. This election was very good for the governor, and he knows it. Now the question is, what does he do for an encore?