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As I’ve said earlier, since I’m a New Jersey resident; you will get a bit more talk regarding the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial race than other national races.  While the focus of the race has been on Chris Christie’s seeming invisibility; there are some small cracks showing in his numbers as November nears.

Still though, he is looking really good as he tries to march towards re-election.  According to a new Rutgers/Eagleton poll, Christie still has a pretty high favorability rating of 64%, only two percentage points down from February.  Reasons why Christie is popular include the oft-mentioned “he’s a straight shooter” type that lead some to belief that he has had a moderate record as governor.

Even though Christie’s approval rating for his efforts in the state has netted him an 87% approval rating, New Jersey voters give Christie a 42% approval rating on the economy, 37% approve his tax plan and around 50% endorse his efforts on the budget, crime and education according to the poll.

Still amidst all the number-crunching on Christie’s efforts, he does have a race to run in about seven months.  His presumed challenger, State Senator Barbara Buono, has had trouble dinging Christie while attempting to boost her name recognition.  Though Buono has received some help from liberal nonprofit “One New Jersey” who just released a new video hammering Christie on New Jersey’s higher than national average unemployment rate.

But Buono, who was down by 42%, appears to be starting to consolidate some of the Democratic base who likely considered voting for Christie.  Buono now trails by 30 points with Christie hitting 57% and Buono 27%.  Still, while Buono has made inroads amongst various Democratic-leaning demographics; she really has to start getting her name out there before the summer months roll around.

There is evidence that she is trying and doing all the right things.  She has been appearing with Cory Booker, who just now has endorsed her which is noteworthy given his friendship with Christie, which could be a plus for the campaign.  There is no question that Booker can probably raise money better than any candidate in New Jersey given his Wall Street ties and his mammoth name recongition as of now is not a deterrent.  But how much will Booker really campaign with Buono and how more importantly, how hard will he help her?

That remains to be seen but as I’ve stated earlier, there are ways to force Christie in some awkward situations.  As the country continues to move in favor of marriage equality, Christie had notably vetoed a bill that would’ve legalized same-sex marriage.  Attacking Christie over social issues in blue New Jersey could help Buono consolidate more of the pro-Christie Democratic group and also endear her to younger voters who are on the side of equality.

You cannot attack Christie on Sandy and unfortunately it seems the state has forgotten his attacks on teachers unions when he first came into office.  Christie has done a remarkably great job in shifting public perception of him as a temperamental governor to one that “shoots from the hip”.  Christie’s main problem has now become his main strength which is frustrating for local Democrats.

The path to victory is fairly thin and unlikely to happen but if Buono can raise some money and continue appearing on the airwaves, this race could be a bit closer than most expected.  I fully expect Buono to at least hit around 45% of the vote when it’s all said and done as New Jersey is a blue state but its what she attacks the governor on that will determine the final outcome.

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