By Mike Schneider
Chris Christie has made it clear he loves being the governor, from the rough and tumble:
“If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your question,” said Christie.
“Yet you have numbnuts like Reid Gusciora who put out a statement comparing me to George Wallace and Lester Maddox.”
To the tender.
It was his handling of Hurricane Sandy — from his embracing help from President Obama to his willingness to call out congressional Republicans who stalled disaster funds.
“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the house majority and their speaker John Boehner,” said Christie.
All that sent Christie’s polls skyrocketing and may have convinced some would-be Democratic challengers that nothing really good could be gained from running against him. But the party faithful still felt one man could give Christie a run for the money. And they were crushed when Cory Booker took a pass and decided to run for the U.S. Senate instead.
“But I’m here today to officially announce my candidacy to be New Jersey’s next United States Senator,” said Booker.
So that left the Democrats with one, and only one, announced candidate — state Sen. Barbara Buono.
(sot) buono announcement “That’s why I’m here announcing my candidacy for governor for the state of New Jersey,” said Buono.
But Buono came with a lot of political baggage. She had previously been stripped of her Senate leadership posts by her own party and she found it hard to get them to line up behind her. In fact, dozens of Democratic leaders jumped the fence to support Christie.
“You know I could have been neutral but when he did that, when he embraced Obama, when he told the speaker Boehner and I know what he said to him because I spoke with the governor about making sure that New Jersey gets it’s fair share, that’s when I made up my mind,” said Joe DiVincenzo.
Buono tried to downplay that damage, but had a hard time making that stick.
“He embraced a political boss of Essex County and you know what governor, you can have that endorsement,” said Buono.
“Let’s be real direct about this, Joe DiVincenzo’s sitting right in the front row and I’m proud to have his endorsement and you wish you did,” said Christie. “So you want to start throwing stones tonight, you better get out of your glass house.”
Buono also had to defend her choice of Milly Silva, a labor leader with a spotty voting record, as her running mate. And her fellow Democrats even rejected her first choice for party leader.
It all made it hard for her to raise money. She struggled to qualify for state matching funds while the governor maxed out early, and easily.
And while he seemed to have the pick of any national Republican figures he wanted, Buono was unable to attract the kind of high profile Democrats that she needed to match the governor’s star power in the last weeks of the campaign, while the Christie bandwagon accelerated.
Buono seemed increasingly isolated, defiant and defensive.
“I am the little guy, I am the underdog, I grew up, I’ve been on my own since I was 19, this is a piece of cake,” said Buono.