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News today from the Garden State as Fairleigh Dickinson released a poll showcasing the continued popularity of Chris Christie and the uphill climb that challenger Barbara Buono has in unseating him this November (NJ votes on off-cycles).

Fairleigh Dickinson sees Christie with a 66% approval rating, though it’s down from January’s high of 73%.  Christie, who recently said that he will expand the state’s Medicare program with the federal government (due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act) and that has a 69% approval rating.  The only downside to that is that 35% of voters haven’t heard anything about the Medicare expansion.

It’s an interesting argument to think about though, to tout the Affordable Care Act would greatly appease the 69% who favored the idea but could you think of anything that would ruin his chances more in a Republican primary in 2016?  Remember, in certain states to certain politicians, “Obamacare” is still a slur.

What FDU also took a look at was this November’s gubernatorial matchup which will be between Christie and State Sen. Barbara Buono.  Christie is up by a wide 58-22 margin though Buono’s numbers are likely low from a lack of name recognition across the state.

Still Christie’s high popularity will not be something that’s easy if Buono wants to pull off what would be a major political upset.  Sure, New Jersey is a safe blue state and Buono will likely have no problems exceeding 40% of the vote at least.

Yet a lot of the anger over Chris Christie’s earlier years in office has mostly evaporated since the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction.  As a New Jersey resident, Christie has transformed himself from a short-tempered conservative to a straight-talking moderate.  Christie is what the average non-political follower thinks they would be like if they were a politician.  “I would tell it like it is!”.

But don’t fall for the trap; Christie has been labeled a “moderate” or “independent” because he can safely attack the House GOP while comfortably staying out of D.C.  The easiest thing to do is play armchair President when you are not in Washington.  Christie still attacked education and unions in a way that would make Tom Corbett and Scott Walker fairly proud of him.  He was all the rage and even earned a shout-out from political pundit and professional pot-stirrer Ann Coulter.

Those days are long gone, but Buono has a chance to ding Christie over a few issues though I’m unsure if they will drop him down TOO much.  Still there is a potential arsenal of facts that could hurt him.

There’s a same-sex marriage legalization bill that has been vetoed by Christie that Buono should highlight.  Maybe it won’t shock the world but it can be related to the fact that Christie, for all of his bluntness, is not some fierce independent or moderate.  You can point to the fact that New Jersey still has a pretty harsh deficit.

But also, an attack that Buono has been sharpening as of late is one on AshBritt, the private contracting company that Christie hired to help clean up and rebuild the state following Sandy.  The contract was signed fairly quickly and suspicions continue to remain in the state if yesterday’s hearings were any indication.

Can Buono win?  It’ll be a very uphill battle but one that could at least be turned into a battle instead of a blowout.  Buono has her work cut out for her but she knew what she was getting into when she announced her run.