WASHINGTON -- Chris Christie wasn’t on any ballots Tuesday, but he may have scored the biggest win. Republican governors, who benefited from his fundraising and stumping as head of the Republican Governors Association, rode a Republican wave to victory.
Gubernatorial races that looked to be close or even potential Republican losses turned into big GOP wins. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Florida Gov. Rick Scott all clinched re-election. Republican Bruce Rauner ousted a sitting Democrat in blue state Illinois, President Barack Obama’s home turf. Republicans scored a victory in Maryland with Larry Hogan, where he will replace Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considered a possible 2016 candidate. Charlie Baker beat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, one of America's bluest states.
Several additional Republicans who could still score victories in blue state as votes were still being counted late Tuesday. Republican Tom Foley and Democrat Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy are locked in a tight race. Even immensely unpopular Maine Gov. Paul LePage appeared set to win re-election.
“This was a big night for Chris Christie,” GOP strategist Ana Navarro said on CNN. “He picked winners.”
Christie was a tireless fundraiser and campaigner. He raised more than $100 million, proving his ability to draw big dollars from donors. And he showed up to campaign for most of the races -- from the competitive Florida to the obvious landslide in Iowa.
The victories for Republicans -- or even near losses -- will pay dividends for Christie as he begins to build a presidential campaign. He can point to the widespread victories in making the case for why he is electable in a general election. He also can expect help -- or endorsements-- from the governors supported by the RGA.
The RGA spent lavishly and touted its spending for each race in congratulating the Republican winners. The biggest influx went to Florida, where the RGA dropped $19 million in its successful defense of Governor Scott. The group spent $8 million helping Walker in Wisconsin.
But it wasn’t just big races that got help from the RGA. In Maryland, the RGA spent $1.2 million in the final week. In Illinois, the association spent $9.4 million. Christie's group spent $14.1 million on paid media in Michigan, $5 million in Georgia, $5 million in Kansas and $2.3 million in Iowa.
That's a lot of favors for the New Jersey governor to call in when the time comes.