The final debate between New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, didn’t lack for entertainment value, but probably did little to change what looks like a re-election landslide for the likely presidential candidate.
Their jabs may have indicated a close fight, but polls show the November 5 contest is anything but: Christie is favored by between 20 and 30 points.
When asked on the first question whether he regretted some of the “harsh” rhetoric he’s used against people who have opposed him, including calling some “jerks” or “idiots,” Christie said voters could expect more of the same if he wins a second term.
“When folks act in a certain manner I’m going to call them out,” he said. “I think that’s the way most people in New Jersey are.”
Buono jabbed back that such a response showed “disrespect for people’s opinions” and wasn’t indicative of “strong leadership.” She said he got along with party bosses because he “represents the worst combination of bully and bossism.”
Buono embraced her underdog role–boasting that as a woman in rough and tumble New Jersey politics she was “dogged” and “never [gave] up.”
Echoing their first debate last week, Buono again hit Christie for trips outside of the Garden State to help other GOP candidates and boost his national profile ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run.
“The governor is running, we already know it, he’s already gone, and I think we should return the favor on November 5th,” said Buono.
Christie wouldn’t promise to serve out his term.“I don’t think the people of New Jersey would expect me to be able to predict what will happen over the next four years,” he said.
The two sparred over Christie’s work to rebuild the state in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last year. While Christie has been lauded for his leadership and quick response in the wake of the devastating storm–and has enjoyed high approval ratings ever since–Buono criticized his decision to focus on rebuilding commercial aspects of the state before focusing on rebuilding the Jersey Shore and famous boardwalk.
“I think the governor did a great job during the Sandy aftermath,” said Buono. “I just wish we could see that governor again.”
Christie vigorously defended his leadership in the wake of the storm, especially in comparison to their neighboring states, saying he was “proud of the job our administration has done.”
Buono sought to tie Christie to congressional Republicans, saying he was party to blame for the gridlock in D.C.
But Christie said he’s often been one of the loudest voices to criticize his own party.
“I told them to get the government reopened and to do their job–which is to run the government, not shut it down,” he said.
The differences between the two candidates were vividly apparent on the issue of gay marriage. With same-sex marriage set to become legal October 21, Christie’s administration has appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Christie reiterated that while he personally believes marriage is “between one man and one woman,” if the issue were brought before voters and approved in a referendum, he would uphold it.
Buono, whose daughter is gay, charged that Christie had “consistently aligned his social views with Sarah Palin and the Iowa GOP caucus,” not with New Jersey.
In response to a hypothetical question from one panelist, Christie said that even if one of his children came out to him, it still wouldn’t change his position.
“If my children came to me and said they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I loved them,” said Christie, “but that their dad still believes marriage is between one man and one woman.”
The two did find some comical common ground at the end though, with both expressing hope that the struggling New York Giants could be renamed for New Jersey, where they actually play.
But the comity was short lived. When asked which convenience store they preferred, Christie said he was “a Wawa guy,” while Buono said she was a 7-11 enthusiast.