New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is leading his gubernatorial opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, by more than 30 points, but that hasn't stopped him from bombarding the airwaves with ads, including negative ones attacking Buono, and spending almost $4.5 million, according to the Christie campaign.
It's easy to wonder why.
New Jersey political experts and the two campaigns have weighed in on the question. But most important, despite a polling and financial lead, the governor, who is believed to have presidential ambitions in 2016, is taking nothing for granted in 2013.
Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime New York City Democratic strategist who has worked on New Jersey races said no one will remember just how negative these ads are getting, but they will remember a landslide.
"It is a Democratic state, and he's taking no chances and he wants to roll big numbers," Sheinkopf said. "No one will remember the negative ads outside of New Jersey, but when it's done, what people will remember nationally are his numbers in a Democratic state. As a Republican he wants to win big in a state that tends to vote for Democrats overall."
Christie is running five ads, including two negative ones, which try to paint Buono as in lockstep with former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, and accuse her of raising taxes and fees. Corzine lost to Christie in 2009. Corzine was also the former CEO of brokerage firm MF Global, which went bankrupt in 2011, prompting an investigation into Corzine's role in the collapse. It's easy to see why Christie wants to paint Buono with the same brush.
"I would have run a purely positive campaign," Christie told reporters earlier this month, according to Politicker N.J., but citing the outside super PAC, One New Jersey, that's running the negative ads against Christie, he said, "they started the fight, but I'll finish it."
New Jersey is a blue state. President Obama won it by more than 17 points over Mitt Romney, and the Garden State has a Democratic registration advantage of more than 700,000.
Kevin Roberts, Christie's campaign spokesman, spoke frankly. Despite the "positive signs" the campaign is seeing in both "polling and fundraising," he said, the "future looms large when you talk about the number of Democrats and the registration differential," and "history tells us that New Jersey hasn't always been favorable to Republicans running statewide."
"We're not taking anything for granted," Roberts said. "That is the motivating force. ... The race will tighten, and we need to educate [New Jersey voters] about her record in a way she won't."
Roberts said that Buono was "exclusively running a negative campaign," something the Christie campaign believes it needs to stay ahead of.
It's important to remember that running ads in New Jersey can be pricey. New Jersey does not have a market of its own but falls into the New York City and Philadelphia markets, which are among the most expensive in the nation.