The key finding in this Quinnipiac poll isn't Chris Christie's 74% approval rating in New Jersey, or his commanding lead in this year's governor's race -- it's how well he'd do in supposedly solid-blue New Jersey as a presidential candidate:
In an early look at the 2016 presidential election, New Jersey voters go 49 percent for Hillary Clinton and 45 percent for Christie.....We think the Republican Party is in dire straits because its core voters are old and white and male and Southern, and because its overall approval ratings are low. But if you analyze any poll, you'll see that the GOP's low standing comes in part from Republicans, who nevertheless vote for the party on Election Day, which tells me that they're telling pollsters they disapprove of their own party because it's not crazy and right-wing enough, and then they vote for the party because they absolutely feel it's better than the Antichrist Democratic Party.
The Garden State's native son tops New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo 54 - 36 percent. Christie ... wins 45 percent of women to Cuomo's 42 percent....
And as for non-Republican voters, they say they don't like the GOP, but that sense of disgust is a mile wide and an inch deep -- even in the bluest states, they're willing to suspend that sense of disgust for any Republican who seems to deviate in any way from Republican stereotypes (or, perhaps, just because they kinda-sorta feel it's time for a change after a few years with, say, a Democratic governor). Why else would there be states that are reliably blue in presidential elections -- Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan -- under all-GOP control at the state level?
No Democrat could possibly win the presidential race in Mississippi or Utah or Alabama or Oklahoma in 2016, but against a sufficiently uninspiring candidate -- Martin O'Malley? -- there's no telling how many states could be won by a Republican who's successfully concealed his fealty to his party's agenda, as the Koch lackey Christie has. That's because the Republican brand is still not box-office poison, or even close. Democrats and liberals still haven't tarnished the GOP's reputation enough. And nothing will change in this country until that changes.
(X-posted at Balloon Juice.)