Christie's philosophy aligns him with Republican pragmatists pushing the GOP to embrace political moderation, particularly on divisive social issues and immigration. Despite detailed recommendations by the Republican National Committee to do just that, the pragmatists are losing the debate as the GOP's more conservative wing drives the national discussion in Washington.
Christie insists that another kind of Republican can be successful.
Asked Tuesday why voters should give him another term, Christie said he's been honest about the state's problems and worked with Democrats to find bipartisan solutions.
"That's why I'm endorsed by 49 Democratic elected officials. That's why we've been able to get things done in Trenton compared to what's going on in Washington, D.C.," he said.
New Jersey voters of both parties report being pleased with Christie's handling of Superstorm Sandy last year, when he appeared to put politics on hold as he welcomed President Barack Obama to tour his battered state shortly before the last presidential contest — a move that irked many conservatives across the country. And leaders of the state's minority community applaud his outreach to groups long ignored by Republicans.
"He was willing to come to a predominantly African-American community," said Michael Blunt, the Democratic mayor of Chesilhurst, N.J., and a strong Christie supporter. "He's man to man. He talks to you as if you're his equal."
Christie also worked to appeal to women during the debate, mentioning his mother at times and complimenting his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono for being "a good and caring mother and someone who cares deeply about public service in the state."
The event also offered Christie an opportunity to practice his debate skills against a female candidate — a possible preview for a 2016 presidential race expected to feature Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Christie faced off against a female competitor in debate preparation sessions to help ensure he wasn't too aggressive.