The day after Chris Christie beat Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009, the New Jersey Republican started laying the groundwork to win Democratic support in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, says columnist Charles Stile, of The Record of North Jersey.
"Chris Christie is the ultimate pragmatist. He recognized that if he was going to get anything achieved in a predominantly Democratic state, he had to work with Democrats," Stile tells "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"He had to find a path to bend levers of power to make that happen. He really had, frankly, no practical option other than to find some way to do it," Stile said Monday.
He wooed a Democratic political heavyweight, Mayor John McCormac of Woodbridge, to join his transition team. Three years later, Christie repaid him by helping to approve a job-generating, 700-megawatt power plant in McCormac's township.
Christie's bold leadership during Superstorm Sandy and his embracing of President Barack Obama also helped cement his good-guy image with Democrats, helping to re-elect him over Democrat Barbara Buono, a state senator from Middlesex, in a landslide last Tuesday, Stile explained.
"This is a Democratic state, the legislature is predominantly Democratic, and this is a state that not only supported Barack Obama but enthusiastically did it.
"A lot of it was whether it was using his influence with the Port Authority to make things happen for coveted projects in districts or his administration approving what is called transitional aid for distressed cities and sending it to towns that ultimately did endorse him," he said, referring to the endorsement by African-American Mayor Michael Blunt, of Chesilhurst, a Camden County borough that got $200,000 in special state aid for distressed towns in 2011.
In addition, "virtually every political law firm in the state either stayed away from Buono or gave a token amount to Christie," Stile said. "A couple reasons are that they want to be, like everybody else, on the side of a winner."
"But there was also this feeling that it was really an unwise decision to be seen giving to Barbara Buono because the fear was if your name or your clients' names were on those lists, you could be shut out. And so a lot of people said, 'well, why should I put myself in harm's way; besides, she's going to lose anyway.'"
"This was not an election on his record, frankly. It was an election on his style of leadership, of creating this sense that there's an adult in the room in the state house for the first time in a long time," Stile said.
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