NEW YORK Two-thirds of New Jersey voters say Chris Christie deserves to be re-elected next year, and the Republican governor would trounce Newark's Democratic Mayor Cory Booker in a hypothetical match-up, a poll found on Wednesday.
Christie's popularity has soared due to his response to Superstorm Sandy, which slammed the Jersey Shore on October 29, tearing up boardwalks and leaving homes in ruins. On Monday, he filed papers stating an intention to seek re-election.
Christie, whose blunt style has helped make him a Republican star, appeared to set aside politics. He toured the damage with Democratic President Barack Obama days before the November 6 presidential election and showed a personal touch with residents who lost their homes or loved ones in the storm.
Asked if Christie deserved to be re-elected, 67 percent of respondents said yes versus 25 percent who said no, according to the poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.
"Remember, we have a state election in 2013 and the only Democrat who shows any oomph against ... Christie, the hero of Hurricane Sandy, is Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Even he trails the Republican governor by double digits," said Quinnipiac poll director Maurice Carroll.
Like Christie, Booker is a charismatic politician who has cultivated a place on the national political stage in part thanks to an aggressive use of social media. The two men have made much of their close working relationship.
According to the poll, Christie would beat Booker by a margin of 53 percent to 35 percent. Just over half of voters have a positive view of Booker, but about a third say they do not know enough about him to form an opinion.
Still, with the election 11 months away, Democrats have cautioned Christie's popularity may subside.
"I appreciate, and I think the residents of our state appreciate, his leadership. But once we get through the crisis, I think people are going to start thinking of other things," said State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who said she was hopeful Booker would enter the race.
The survey of 1,664 registered voters was conducted from November 19 to 25 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, Quinnipiac said.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman)