One unfortunate gauge of Gov. Christie's success is that when Democrats considered his impressive approval ratings, most of them sat down. State Sen. Barbara Buono of Middlesex County was one of the few who stood up, becoming the first woman the state's Democrats have nominated for governor.
But the party's leaders have failed to give her the support to run a convincing campaign. Buono has been an independent and competent legislator for almost 20 years. Her gubernatorial candidacy, however, has fallen short of making the case that she is the better candidate for the state's top office.
Christie has used the power of the governor's office ably. He has compromised with the Legislature's ruling Democrats while exploiting their internal rifts. With their help, he has put the state's budget and pension funding on a better track. He has also maintained most government services in a rotten economy.
Christie wisely accepted increased Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act, which will provide health insurance for about 300,000 New Jerseyans, save the state money, and keep hospitals healthy. His capital program for the state's colleges and universities promises to boost higher education and employment. And his takeover of Camden's troubled school district gives hope for improvement where there has been little.
But Christie has wrongly demonized teachers and abandoned a school aid formula that attached funding to at-risk children. And he should forget about an income-tax cut that would favor the wealthy and unnecessarily reduce state revenue.
Christie's opposition to same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood funding are retrograde. And he should improve his poor environmental record by replenishing open-space funds and setting more ambitious clean-energy goals.
Christie has also shown an unfortunate tendency to be self-serving. His scheduling of a special U.S. Senate election for last week seemed calculated to keep the popular Democrat Cory Booker from affecting his race. He was featured too prominently in taxpayer-funded tourism ads. As a possible presidential candidate, Christie must be more careful to keep New Jersey's interests above his personal ambition. And he should kick his habit of publicly insulting other people.
For all his flaws, however, Christie has proven himself a strong and skilled leader who deserves reelection.