Washington: The earthy Chris Christie has advanced his shadow campaign to be the next Republican presidential candidate with a crushing victory in the New Jersey gubernatorial election, while a Democrat has won a narrow victory in the once reliably Republican state of Virginia. The results have prompted further questions about the viability of Tea Party-backed candidates in future general elections. With a projected victory of 59 per cent to 39 per cent, Mr Christie has reinforced his status as a national political star by proving himself as a Republican capable of securing Democratic voters in a state that US President Barack Obama won by 18 per cent last year. In his victory speech, Mr Christie declared: ''If we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the people in Washington DC should turn on their televisions and see how it's done." According to late polls, up to 40 per cent of Democratic and independent voters supported Mr Christie despite his anti-union stance and his opposition to increasing the minimum wage or taxes on the rich. His victory comes despite a state unemployment rate of 8.5 per cent, compared to a nationwide average of 7.3 per cent, and even though a quarter of the state’s population is categorised as poor. CNN exit polls found Mr Christie won 56 per cent of women voters, 45 per cent among Hispanics and 25 per cent of black voters, a significant improvement on other Republican candidates in recent elections. Much of his popularity comes from his easy public manner – and his occasional aggression in response to public criticism – in a state proud of its rough-and-tumble reputation. He increased his popularity with an energetic response to Hurricane Sandy last year, when he praised Mr Obama’s reaction to the emergency. That endorsement prompted some Republicans to criticise him, coming as it did in the dying days of the presidential election. Speaking to CNN early on election day, Mr Christie appeared to make his case for the nomination to conservative Republicans. "I'm a conservative, and I've governed as a conservative in this state and I think that's led to some people disagreeing with me in our state, because it's generally a left-of-centre, blue [Democratic] state," he said. "But I think that the difference has been is I haven't tried to hide it, or mask it as something different. I just tell people this is who I am." Asked what the result in New Jersey might mean to the Republican Party more broadly, he said: “The party has got to focus on winning again. Sometimes I feel our party cares more about winning the argument than winning elections . . . I think sometimes we forget that candidates matter.” Mr Christie’s Democratic opponent Barbara Buono sought to highlight the plight of New Jersey’s middle and lower classes, but was unable to attract significant media attention. None of the Democratic Party’s most recognisable figures – including the President and Vice-President - campaigned on her behalf. VIRGINIA The Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been elected governor of Virginia, beating the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli in race that turned out to be far closer than recent projections. Both candidates proved to be unpopular and finished the race with historically low favourability ratings after a bitter and negative campaign. A poll late last month found 39 per cent had an unfavourable impression of Mr McAuliffe (up one per cent from the previous month), while 51 per cent had an unfavourable view of Mr Cuccinelli. Mr McAuliffe is best known as a Bill Clinton ally, former chairman of the Democratic Party and aggressive fundraiser who has made himself wealthy with his own investments and developments. He once famously stopped at a party fundraiser after the birth of one of his children, leaving his wife and newborn in the car. In the Virginia race he outraised and outspent Mr Cuccinelli, using his advantage to run an advertising campaign focusing on Mr Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion even in the event of rape and incest and to gay rights and some forms of contraception. A recent Washington Post poll found that while the two candidates were neck-and-neck among men, Mr McAuliffe had a 24 per cent lead among women. Mr Cuccinelli, who secured the Republican nomination after Tea Party activists staged a coup within the Virginia party, was also handicapped by demographic changes in the north of the state, where the suburbs of Washington DC have spread. Many voters in that region are more moderate than those in the state’s south, and many were directly affected by the Tea Party-led government shutdown. His campaign was disrupted by a federal investigation into claims that the Republican incumbent, Bob McDonnell, took improper personal gifts from donors. Despite the investigation, polls show he remains more popular than both Mr McAuliffe and Mr Cuccinelli. Polls suggest Mr Cuccinelli made up ground against Mr McAuliffe in recent days by focusing on Obamacare, which is unpopular with a majority of Virginia voters and the centre of a controversy over the disastrous launch of its online marketplaces. Mr McAuliffe’s victory could also benefit a 2016 presidential campaign by Hillary Clinton, providing her with a Southern base. NEW YORK As expected in the New York mayoral race, Bill de Blasio became the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades, with early results showing he demolished the Republican Joe Lhota. Through the campaign Mr De Blasio, the city’s former public advocate (an official city government watchdog), linked Mr Lhota to the current mayor, billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg, and argued that New York City had become an enclave of the very wealthy at the expense of the broader population. His campaign theme “a tale of two cities” resonated deeply among a population in which almost half live near the poverty line. Mr De Blasio ran an unashamedly progressive campaign, promising to increase taxes on those earning over $500,000 in order to fund universal pre-kindergarten education and increase spending on public housing, and to end the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy. Voters also seemed drawn to Mr De Blasio’s warm public demeanour and his charismatic biracial family. The family’s exuberant group dance – which they call “the smackdown” and demonstrated in public – became a matter of media interest, as did his son Dante’s distinctive afro and his wife’s declaration that she was once a lesbian. Although Democrats enjoy a roughly 6-to-1 advantage over Republicans in this famously liberal city, a mixture of intra-party squabbles and attractive non-Democratic moderates has kept the party out of power. The last Democratic mayor, David Dinkins, was defeated after one term amid the whiff of incompetence, petty corruption and an unwillingness to stand up to party interest groups. Rudy Giuliani, a pro-choice and pro-gay Republican made famous by his hugely successful crusades against the mafia, rode into office in the early 1990s and enjoyed huge popularity among the city's prosperous white middle and upper classes as the booming economy and record profits on Wall Street filled the city's coffers with money. As his popularity began to wane with the recession of 2000-2001, Mr Giuliani's legacy was rescued by his response to the September 11 attacks, after which he became known as "America's Mayor''. When term limits finally forced Mr Giuliani from office he was replaced by Mr Bloomberg, who ran on the Republican ticket although he is as liberal on many issues as most Democrats.