NEW YORK Three-quarters of New Jersey voters approve of Governor Chris Christie's job performance and nearly seven in 10 say he deserves to be elected to a second term in November, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday.
Christie, a Republican who is often mentioned as a potential presidential contender in 2016, has seen his popularity skyrocket since superstorm Sandy ripped through the state last fall.
The governor's embrace of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and his angry rebuke of the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for its initial refusal to approve a storm aid package, helped cement his image as an independent-minded executive capable of rising above partisanship for the good of his constituents.
Congress eventually approved a $30 million aid package for storm-damaged areas in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
"'Give 'em hell, Chris!' New Jersey voters say about Governor Christopher Christie's attack on House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans when they delayed the vote on superstorm Sandy relief," said Quinnipiac's Maurice Carroll.
Christie would easily defeat several potential Democratic opponents, including the state Senate's Democratic leader, Stephen Sweeney, and State Senators Richard Codey and Barbara Buono, the poll found.
Meanwhile, Newark Mayor Cory Booker - the Democrat once seen as posing the most serious challenge to Christie - is the most popular choice to win next year's U.S. Senate race.
While incumbent Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg still enjoys a 50 percent approval rating, only about a third of New Jersey voters want to see the 88-year-old lawmaker re-elected.
In a match-up against Lautenberg, Booker, who is 43, leads 51 to 30 percent, the poll found.
"Nothing but positive scores for Newark Mayor Cory Booker. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg gets an OK job-approval rating and favorability, but voters don't think he should seek six more years in the Senate," Carroll said.
The survey of 1,647 registered voters was conducted from January 15 to January 21, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
(Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Cynthia Osterman)