Poised for big reelection victory, Christie draws national attention

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Sunday he hopes people take lessons from his expected reelection on Tuesday, a nod to the fact he's created a campaign his supporters see as a model for Republicans to win nationally. [WATCH VIDEO]

“I think you people look at elections, and they try to discern things from them about what they mean at that moment and what they mean for the future. And I think that what people are going to see is so unusual for what our party has created in the last couple of years that invariably, people are going to draw lessons from it, and I hope they do,” Christie said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” 

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Though he never lagged in the polls, Christie's campaign says he ran as the underdog, reaching out to untapped voting groups like minorities and women, and campaigning in towns and counties where he won only single digit portions of the vote last election.

A landslide win, and Christie's formula for achieving it in a blue state, will make a compelling argument to GOP primary voters as he gears up for an expected presidential run in 2016.

Four polls out Monday gave Christie a hefty lead over Democrat state Sen. Barbara Buono, ranging from 19 percent to 36 percent among likely voters.

There remains the risk that Christie has set expectations too high — anything less than a high-double-digit margin would be a disappointment for the governor, his supporters privately admit.

But his campaign notes the historic nature of a finish with anything more than 50 percent support in a state as Democratic as New Jersey, which President Obama won in 2012 with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

“We set out when we got the governor’s campaign going at the beginning of the year that it’s something that we're not going to take for granted,” spokesman Kevin Roberts said. “We knew that the dynamics of this race and the demographics and numbers weren’t behind us from the beginning.”

According to Roberts, Christie has run from day one as the underdog. He’s campaigned in communities where, last election, he got single-digit support — like West Orange, where he only drew 9 percent of the vote in 2009.

He’s reached out to minority communities and female voters, demographic groups that Republicans have historically had trouble with.

Christie’s campaign has two bilingual campaign offices dedicated almost exclusively to outreach to minority communities, and he’s launched Spanish-language ads during his campaign.

On election eve, Christie made a final stop in Union City, which is more than 80 percent Hispanic by population and whose mayor has endorsed the governor.

Election eve polling showed him drawing a majority of women, 90 percent-plus Republicans and even one-third or more of blacks and Democratic voters. He’s also taking a plurality of independent voters, key to a smashing victory.

His persistent lead in the polls has as much to do with his personal popularity post-Hurricane Sandy as it does with his voter outreach and ground game, however. Christie has made a point to build relationships with Democrats, including President Obama, and had, as of Monday evening, the endorsements of 61 Democratic elected officials and 26 mostly private sector unions.

And the attacks against him, which have centered largely around his presumed presidential ambitions, have failed to gain much traction.

He drew criticism for being self-serving when he scheduled a special Senate election for an odd Wednesday in October. Then-candidate Cory Booker (D), who won the election and is now a U.S. senator, has name recognition that threatened to turn out Democrats, if the special election had been held on Election Day, and thus impact Christie's own vote margin.

And EMILY’s List, which endorsed the Democrat, and Buono’s campaign have hammered Christie for, they say, running with 2016 in mind.

“I’m not running for president. I’m running for governor,” Buono previously told ABC News, echoing a common refrain she’s repeated on the campaign trail and in debates.

But the Democratic contender, who became the nominee after a range of higher-profile candidates declined, has never been able to build momentum behind her campaign.

Unlike the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Buono didn’t receive help from any big Democratic names: President Obama and the Clintons both stayed out of New Jersey.

She lagged severely in fundraising through the end of the campaign, with just $277,000 cash on hand to Christie’s $4 million as of Oct. 28. The governor raised more than five times as much as Buono, taking in more than $13 million to her $2.8 million over the duration of the race.

Even on the eve of the election, she was still relatively unknown. A plurality of respondents in two polls said they had no opinion of her.

Roberts said that Buono's candidacy was simply further evidence of the strength of Christie's appeal in the Garden State.

“That’s sort of a chicken-or-the-egg question, isn’t it?” he asked. “Whether you fault the opponent that we have, or we drew the opponent that we did because of the governor’s position in the race — from the beginning, we knew we had some advantages.”