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November 08, 2013 11:09 AM New Jersey: Regional Divide Reflected Even in Christie’s Landslide

By Colin Woodard

To the surprise of nobody, Republican Chris Christie was reelected governor of New Jersey in a landslide Tuesday. Commentators have rightly observed that a relative moderate like Christie can do for Republicans what the Tea Party never will: win in a “blue” state.

Or, more accurately, Christie showed how Republicans can be competitive within the more northern regional cultures, where the Tea Party’s anti-communitarian agenda is anathema to centuries-held ideas about how a free and healthy society is created and maintained. New Jersey, split in half between its Midland south and New Netherland-ish north - see this Washington Monthly feature for an explanation of these cultures - is an interesting testing ground. Is Christie’s approach a winner in both of these pluralistic, multi-cultural regions - one commercial, tolerant, and liberal, the other a swing region, skeptical of both government and oligarchs alike?

Well, maybe.

Parse the election results - thanks again to Miami University of Ohio’s Nicollette Staton for doing so - and you’ll see Christie’s appeal is far greater in the Midlands than New Netherland.
On Tuesday, Christie won the Midland south of the state by a whopping 65-33, or 32 points.

He crushed rival Barbara Buono in New Netherlander North Jersey too - which has twice as many voters — but “only” by 58-40.

If anything, this disparity is actually good news for a potential presidential bid. The Midlands are critical to victory on the national stage, as winning the support of its people is critical to success in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri. It may be that Christie’s outsized support is partly the result of the gratitude of hurricane-ravaged Shore counties in his home state, but if even some of it resonates with the broader cultural ethos of the Quaker-founded, German-dominated Midlands, he’ll prove a far more formidable candidate in the 2016 primaries.

Colin Woodard is State and National Affairs Writer at the Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram and author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

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