(NEW YORK) — New Jersey voters handed Gov. Chris Christie a decisive win in Tuesday’s gubernatorial race, setting the stage not only for Christie’s second term, but possibly for a 2016 presidential bid.
Sen. Barbara Buono, D-N.J., Tuesday night conceded the election to Christie, the hard-charging Republican governor who took office in 2010 and has become one of his party’s brightest stars.
“I just called to congratulate Gov. Christie,” Buono tweeted Tuesday night. “When it comes down to it, we’re both parents who want to see the best for our children.”
Election Day marked the conclusion of Christie’s 46-stop bus tour around the state. At one of his final stops a supporter suggested that he bring “some New Jersey attitude to the White House.” But Christie was coy, telling ABC News, “I like my New Jersey attitude right here.”
“It’s nice when people say nice things and that’s one of them,” Christie said at a diner in South Amboy on Tuesday, “but you know it doesn’t mean anything to me other than they like what I’m doing and maybe they will vote for me today.”
Christie’s victory was never in doubt. Throughout the campaign, polls showed Christie with a double-digit lead over Buono.
“The polls are great. I’m happy about them,” Christie told ABC News on Monday at an Election Eve rally in Union City, N.J. “Believe me, I’d rather be up than down.”
And it was no accident that Christie, 51, spent part of his final full day of the race delivering an appeal to Hispanic voters while campaigning alongside New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, a fellow GOP governor.
“It’s important to the future of our country,” Christie said. “We’ve got to bring people together.”
Christie is looking to show that he can bridge gaps with Hispanics, women and independents — groups that have stymied other Republican candidates’ hopes for national office, including the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Tuesday night’s exit poll results included some encouraging numbers for him: Christie surpassed his Democratic opponent in support among men, women, political independents and remained competitive among Hispanics.
But preliminary exit poll results put Christie slightly behind Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical matchup for 2016.
Earlier this week Christie deflected questions about his potential presidential ambitions.
“I’ve got to govern this state,” Christie said. “Whatever the future brings it will bring. But first things first here.”
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