Regions Matter in New Jersey, Too

In a follow-up to his item on Virginia and the regional split that was exposed by Tuesday’s elections, Colin Woodward has now posted at Ten Miles Square a brief look at New Jersey as well:

Christie showed how Republicans can be competitive within the more northern regional cultures, where the Tea Party’s anti-communitarian agenda is anathema to centuries-held ideas about how a free and healthy society is created and maintained. New Jersey, split in half between its Midland south and New Netherland-ish north – see this Washington Monthly feature for an explanation of these cultures – is an interesting testing ground. Is Christie’s approach a winner in both of these pluralistic, multi-cultural regions – one commercial, tolerant, and liberal, the other a swing region, skeptical of both government and oligarchs alike?

Well, maybe.

Parse the election results – thanks again to Miami University of Ohio’s Nicollette Staton for doing so – and you’ll see Christie’s appeal is far greater in the Midlands than New Netherland.

On Tuesday, Christie won the Midland south of the state by a whopping 65-33, or 32 points.

He crushed rival Barbara Buono in New Netherlander North Jersey too – which has twice as many voters — but “only” by 58-40.

It may be helpful to quote Woodward’s earlier description of the “Midlands” region, which is not something you’d normally associate with New Jersey:

America’s great swing region was founded by English Quakers, who believed in man’s inherent goodness and welcomed people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies on the shores of Delaware Bay. Pluralistic and organized around the middle class, the Midlands spawned the culture of Middle America and the Heartland, where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate, even apathetic. An ethnic mosaic from the start—it had a German rather than British majority at the time of the Revolution—it shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, but it rejects top-down government intervention. From its cultural hearth in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware and Maryland, Midland culture spread through central Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, northern Missouri, most of Iowa, southern Ontario, and the eastern halves of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, sharing the border cities of Chicago (with Yankeedom) and St. Louis (with Greater Appalachia).

So Christie did really well in a region that has a lot in common with big chunks of the midwest. That, and the ability to do pretty well in an inherently suspicious New Netherland region, is a sort of best-case scenario for him going forward. But he should beware the powerful denizens of Greater Appalachia and the Far West.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.