Christie breathes sigh of relief as Booker says he won't run for gov.

Christie Gets Big Boost in ???13, But Lautenberg May Not Be So Lucky in ???14

It was no surprise, but the news that Newark Mayor Cory Booker would not seek the Democratic nomination for governor of New Jersey next year gave Republican Gov. Chris Christie a major boost???and, no doubt, occasion for a big sigh of relief. Considered one of the nation???s rising Democratic stars, Booker (who chaired the platform committee at the Democratic National Convention this summer) had long been regarded as the strongest possible opponent to Christie, who is considered one of the GOP???s future presidential hopefuls.

But following his on-the-scene oversight in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy last month, Christie???s numbers had a dramatic upswing. The most recent Rutgers University Poll showed 67 percent of Garden State voters approved of their governor???s performance???a surge from the 48 percent who approved before Sandy. Nearly nine in 10 voters said Christie???s performance during Sandy was ???excellent??? or ???good.??? His warm welcome to President Obama clearly helped Christie, with 88 percent of Democrats saying they approved of his bipartisanship and graciousness to the Democratic President. While many Republicans nationwide condemned Christie for being too warm to the Democrat they were trying to beat, the Rutgers poll showed two-thirds of New Jersey Republicans favored their governor???s spirit of bipartisanship during the storm.

In terms of re-election, a Quinnipiac Poll showed Christie leading Booker by a margin of 53 to 35 percent statewide and that two-thirds of registered New Jersey voters feel he deserved re-election.

Booker clearly chose the better part of valor in not running and leaving the race to such ???B-team??? Democrats as Rep. Frank Pallone or State Sen. Richard Codey, who was acting governor for 14 months following the November 2004 resignation of then-Gov. James McGreevey.

Booker is reportedly set to huddle with advisers soon to discuss a possible race against fellow Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who will be 90 when his term is up in 2014. A Public Policy Polling survey recently showed that Booker leads Lautenberg among likely primary voters by a handsome margin of 59 to 22 percent. Lautenberg has not yet said whether he will run again.