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Why Is New Jersey the Nation's Problem?

It's an area where voting ballots have a habit of vanishing, where mayoral candidates are dumped out of office for bank fraud and where photos of nude, drunken, sitting city leaders make the rounds. But Christie matters in ways that those guys just didn't.

As a re-elected Republican in a largely Democratic state and the public face of New Jersey in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Christie has presidential aspirations that his infamous Jersey politico predecessors never did. While Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton is still far more favored by the polls than Republican hopefuls including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, polls conducted by Qunnipiac, CNN and PPP all give Christie a slight advantage over the former Secretary of State.

That's why national networks aired portions of Christie's State of the State address. That's why national outlets are following "BridgeGate" as if Christie had suspended domestic air travel. Since Superstorm Sandy, Christie has been a national figure and someone U.S. citizens are going to want a close look at if he decides to seek the presidency in 2016.

That's the key difference between all of the examples above and New Jersey's longstanding place as the butt of the nation's jokes. It isn't the unfortunate target of all of this recent attention: It actively seeks that spotlight. Though the idea of a Super Bowl in the New York metro area originally surfaced after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and was initially tied to Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 before the New York Jets' plans for a stadium in New York City fell through, Christie and the state pushed for hosting duties. That idea gained momentum in 2010 as the New York Giants and Jets prepared to open their new MetLife Stadium near the old Giants Stadium site in East Rutherford, N.J.

Grouse about the cold-weather Super Bowl if you'd like, but New Jersey and New York's Super Bowl host committee built a snowflake right into its logo as a point of pride. New Jerseyans may grouse about the infrastructure work for the event that backed up the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 3, but the state seems pretty excited about the slate of events it's hosting leading up to the game -- including a weekend festival in a Hoboken park with a sweet view of the Manhattan skyline. The Garden State may not enjoy how game ridership will tie up mass transit, but it not so secretly loves that its PATH trains, Hudson-Bergen light rail, Newark light rail and NJTransit commuter rail finally received equal billing with New York's subway system on a regional transit map.

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