Since the end of summer, polling in New Jersey had suggested that Barbara Buono, the Democrats' sacrificial lamb, was cutting into Gov. Chris Christie's re-election lead. Not by much, mind, but enough to turn what had been a 40-point deficit into a 20-point deficit. This spring's Republican dreams of a Christie landslide that could sweep Republicans back into control of the state legislature seemed to have tempered.
Ah, and then came today's Quinnipiac poll.
New Jersey State Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democrat challenging Gov. Christopher Christie for reelection, is making no progress and trails the popular Republican 64 – 30 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released today... Christie leads 61 – 32 percent among women and 69 – 26 percent among men, 94 – 3 percent among Republicans and 69 – 23 percent among independent voters. Democrats back Sen. Buono 60 – 35 percent.
More incredibly, Christie grabs 35 percent of black voters, and slices deep into every typical Democratic constituency. He's benefited from the good will spurred by Hurricane Sandy, sure, but he's managed to stretch those feelings out for 10 months, and capitalized on them by scoring Democratic endorsements; Buono has struggled to win the endorsements of unions that usually go for Democrats. When she dinged Christie for making himself the star of the "Stronger Than the Storm" campaign, a boosterish ad blitz that voters paid for, Christie accused her of making fun of his weight.
Yesterday's Quinnipiac poll, which tracked the U.S. Senate race, showed us our first separation between Christie's fate and the fate of Cory Booker. For months Christie had been crushing Buono at about the same margin that Booker was crushing former mayor/Koch organization organizer Steve Lonegan. But Booker's now leading Lonegan by a normal New Jersey Democratic margin, 12 points. Christie's paid no price whatsoever for putting Booker's race three weeks ahead of the gubernatorial race, a decision that cost the state $24 million but would keep a competitive election from sharing space on the ballot with the governor.