Christie Advisor Says Governor Isn’t Taking Early Lead for Granted

In the gubernatorial race, Gov. Chris Christie is leading Sen. Barbara Buono in funding by approximately a five-to-one margin and the latest polls put Christie ahead by about 35 points. Bill Palatucci, one of Christie’s advisors and national committeeman for the New Jersey Republican State Committee, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that although Christie seems to be in the lead, members of his campaign are working hard to help ensure a victory in November.

Christie has amassed more than $5 million compared to Buono’s $1 million. Palatucci estimates that Christie will have about $6 million or more in June. When asked how much he believes Christie will need to beat Buono in November, Palatucci said, “I think what do you need to win in New Jersey is the question because this is a tough state. The president won here last November, let’s not forget, by 18 percent — only one of three states where he improved his margin over four years ago.”

Even though the latest polls have Christie leading by 35 to 40 points, Palatucci said there are 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans in the Garden State, making it more difficult for GOP candidates. “We haven’t elected a U.S. senator in 40 years as a Republican. And before Chris Christie won in ’09, we hadn’t won statewide in 12 years. So all that is to say you take nothing for granted,” he said. “You work like you’re behind every day. And if you work for Chris Christie, you work very aggressively.”

While Christie is polling well, the margin between him and Buono has decreased. Palatucci said the change is natural. “The latest poll had him at a 30-point lead. In a state like New Jersey that’s not gonna hold up. But that just means there are a lot of people out there who respect the job that he’s done — Independents, Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “And that adds up to high approval ratings. He’s going to work hard to keep it as high as we can, knowing that it’s going to close naturally between now and November.”

Christie made headlines for holding a town hall meeting in Passaic County. Some have said the tactic is to get a foothold in an area where he hasn’t spent much time. Palatucci said the effort is to get Christie to all parts of the state, from Cape May to Sussex counties “going after every voter and asking every voter for their vote. … People — Republican or Democrat — whether they live at the Shore or out by the Delaware River, they like his leadership. So that just gives us the opportunity to talk to everybody and leave no stone unturned.”

Christie has touted bipartisanship throughout his campaign and on the national stage. Palatucci has said that Americans are tired of the federal government not accomplishing goals. He blames both parties for the impasses and says New Jersey can serve as a model for them.

“The governor says clearly compromise is not a dirty word. He’s talked often about the boulevard of compromise. You wake up in the morning and you know you’re not going to get everything you want. Nobody does,” Palatucci said. “But [on] the other side, you’re not going to compromise your principles.”

Christie’s ability to compromise has created good working relationships with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, according to Palatucci. “That’s why they’ve accomplished the things that they’ve done like pension reform and education reform and reducing the size of government together,” Palatucci said.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate rejected a measure that would have required expanded background checks for gun buyers. The majority of Republicans opposed the measure. Palatucci didn’t have a specific comment about the vote, saying, “This year, we’re worrying about New Jersey. New Jersey’s got the second toughest gun laws in the country. The attorney general’s just come out with his task force report. The governor’s going to take a look at that and see if any additional changes are necessary. I’ll stick to my New Jersey roots on that one.”

While polls have shown New Jerseyans use words like “strong,” “smart” and “effective” to describe Christie, some have described him as a bully. Palatucci said he believes most New Jersey residents see Christie as someone who is fighting for them.

“I think most people take pride in his, should I say, strong personality because he’s standing up for us,” Palatucci said. “He just made the TIME 100 list, one of the most influential people based on his leadership on Sandy.”

Palatucci said he believes New Jerseyans recognize Christie’s leadership. “If he’s tough at times, if he’s blunt, it’s because his heart’s in the right place and he’s doing it for everybody,” Palatucci said.