| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 11 While partisan polarization has
brought the U.S. government to a grinding halt, voters in New
Jersey are throwing their support behind two politicians who
wear bipartisan cooperation as a badge of honor and even claim
an across-the-aisle friendship.
Republican Governor Chris Christie, a tough talking fiscal
conservative, has a wide lead to win re-election in November,
while polls show Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a charismatic liberal
who has been touted as the next Barack Obama, is expected to win
an open U.S. Senate seat in next week's special election.
Stars of their respective parties nationally, their status
as local heroes has a lot to do with the perception that they
put partisan differences aside for the good of their state.
Christie's popularity soared after he joined forces with
Democratic president Barack Obama to speed his state's recovery
after superstorm Sandy, while Booker frequently invokes his
close working relationship with Christie.
"In some states, they'd just as well shut the government
down. New Jersey isn't one of those states," said David
Redlawsk, a Rutgers University professor. "In a state like New
Jersey, saying we want to work together is appealing."
Discussions are now under way in Washington to end an 11-day
government shutdown, triggered when Congress failed to reach a
spending agreement over implementation of Obama's healthcare
plan. New Jersey offers a stark contrast to the national
Booker's first run for mayor was documented in the
Oscar-nominated film "Street Fight," and he is known for rubbing
shoulders with celebrities. He points to his ability to work
well with Christie as a positive credential.
"The truth is he and I disagree on most everything..."
Booker said in August, in response to charges by Democratic
rivals that he was too close to the governor.
"But, despite our differences, I am the mayor of the largest
city in the state, I've got to work with the governor to get
things done," said Booker, who is running to fill the seat that
became available after the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg.
MAKING IT WORK
In his first term as governor, Christie, a former federal
prosecutor, has built a national reputation for realizing
conservative priorities - namely a state pension overhaul - with
the support of the Democrat-controlled state legislature.
His enormous popularity among New Jerseyans, now 63 percent,
was cemented by his response to Sandy, which last year laid
waste to the shoreline, tearing up boardwalks and destroying
National Republicans faulted Christie for boosting Obama's
re-election chances by his enthusiastic embrace of the
president's storm response just days ahead of the election,
while New Jersey voters applauded him for putting the state's
interests ahead of politics.
Christie leads Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, two to
one, a Quinnipiac poll found on Thursday.
"You wonder if bipartisanship works or not? Look around
you," Christie said at a recent event, echoing what has become a
familiar refrain at press conferences and on the campaign trail.
In the Senate race, Booker's opponent, Steve Lonegan, is an
unabashed conservative who has repeatedly praised congressional
Republicans for standing their ground against Obamacare. A
Quinnipiac poll this week found Booker leading 53 to 41 percent.
Christie and Booker have worked together to bring businesses
to Newark as well as expanding access to charter schools, which
are funded with tax dollars but privately run.
"On a different number of levels, we kind of understood each
other as outsiders and tried, as best we could, despite obvious
political and philosophical differences we have, to be able to
forge a productive relationship," Christie told the New York
Times newspaper in July.
Last year, they teamed up to make a video poking fun at
Christie's penchant for bombastic Town Hall speeches that became
instant hits on YouTube and Booker's reputation as a prolific
Twitter user who responds directly to emergencies he hears about
on social media.
"Clearly, they're grown up guys who can behave like grown
ups," said Maurice Carroll of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute.
Still, at least in Booker's case, Carroll said there might
be an element of political pragmatism: "In New Jersey, it's not
a good thing to be anti-Christie."