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Is New Jersey in play for Republicans in 2012?

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New Jersey has been a reliable blue state for Democrats in presidential elections for the last two decades, but new polling numbers measuring the approval ratings of Republican Gov. Chris Christie may mean trouble for President Obama's reelection in the Garden State.

The latest numbers from Quinnipiac paint a bright picture for Christie, with nearly 60% of New Jersey voters approving of the governor's job performance:

New Jersey voters still approve 59 - 36 percent of the job Christie is doing, his best score ever. Approval is 92 - 6 percent among Republicans and 64 - 32 percent among independent voters. Democrats disapprove 64 - 30 percent.

Christie is more of a leader, 54 percent of voters say, while 39 percent say he is more of a bully. ...

"Whether Gov. Christopher Christie is traveling the nation, campaigning for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, or traveling to Israel to tout New Jersey business, his job- approval rating at home in Trenton continues to climb."

Hot Air's Ed Morrissey also notes how Christie's approval rating is especially impressive in light of Democrats' huge advantage in the state:

[Democrats] control both chambers of the legislature by 3:2 ratios.  In the 2009 election that put Christie into office, Democrats had a ten-point advantage in the exit polling, 41/31/28, and Christie only won 8% of the Democratic vote.  His disapproval number is now lower than the Democratic turnout in that election, at 39%, although it’s within the margin of error in the survey.

Christie's well-known commanding style of leadership seems to have won favor with Jersey voters, but will his Republican political identity transfer over to boost GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in November?

Christie's favorability makes him an appealing choice for the VP slot, but I think the GOP should keep him right where he is.  Christie is making a big difference in the way people perceive Republicans and his popularity likely means the DNC will be forced to spend more money in a state where they wouldn't normally.

One thing is for certain: If Democrats have to even second-guess their chances for victory in New Jersey, they are going to have a considerably uphill battle elsewhere.

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