With Election Behind Them, Democrats Face a Tough Road Ahead in Trenton

Politics is being able to have it both ways.

A day after New Jersey voters rejected all of the challengers Governor Chris Christie backed in pricey TV ad buys, the governor said the results were “no big shocker” and bee-lined for New Hampshire to back-to-back events for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and a special debate watching party.

Christie noted accurately that historically the party of the incumbent Governor usually looses seat in the off-year legislative election like Tuesday's.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman and Assemblyman John Wisniewski was holding court on a conference call telling reporters that his party's one seat pick-up in the Assembly and the preservation of all of their targeted incumbents in the Senate was a clear sign of voters "Christie fatigue" and a desire for "results over rancor."

And although Democrats managed to hold off extinction in Bergen County by defeating a Republican incumbent county clerk, winning the surrogate judgeship and holding onto two freeholder seats, the party has a tough road ahead.

One hurdle will be deciding who goes up against Christie in 2013.

"They are going to have to sort themselves out for this governor's race," said Fairleigh Dickinson University political scientist Peter Woolley in a phone interview. "And this is unusual because there is no heir apparent. What they are going to headed towards it seems to me is the possibility of a bruising primary."

In the immediate future, Woolley said the upcoming education reform-dominated legislative session will be a tough for the party.

"Whether you’re talking about charter schools or teacher tenure and the whole range of things in between -- plus collective bargaining -- there are going to be differing positions on all of those things," Woolley said.

Throughout his tenure, Christie has invoked his support of President Barack Obama's education reforms to try and enlist urban Democrats in his running battle with the state's teachers union.

Woolley said the state’s education association – which represents New Jersey's teachers -- recently released their own comprehensive version of tenure and education reform to help frame the upcoming debate as opposed to always finding themselves on the defensive.

At least one item Christie did support also got a thumbs up from voters: In Princeton, both the Township and Borough voted to consolidate their municipalities by healthy margins. That still leaves 565 local governments.