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The vague election law statute appeared to give Christie several options for setting the special-election date. Options included setting it for November or even possibly appointing an interim senator until 2014. That would have given the party an extra vote in the Senate at least for another year, though it would have undoubtedly invited a legal challenge from Democrats.
Christie fervently denied at the time that the move was self-serving, and four months later — whether Booker wins or loses — there is zero evidence his national political interests will take a hit as a result.
“I don’t think that will be a significant issue” in 2016, Republican strategist Henry Barbour said. “What will matter is his record and ability to connect with primary voters.”
Whether Christie can win over conservative primary voters around the country remains to be seen, but he will likely have at least another year to craft his gubernatorial legacy ahead of a presidential bid launched in 2015.
A Monmouth University poll released Tuesday found Christie leading his Democratic challenger, Buono, 59 percent to 35 percent. That’s in a state President Barack Obama carried in 2012 by 17 points.
“We are looking at a potential 20-point margin in a blue state and an outright win among Hispanic voters,” Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray said in a statement. “What more could a 2016 GOP presidential contender ask for?”