LET'S face it - sooner or later the Republican Party will rebound. It will find its voice and the tide will begin to turn. The only question is where, when and how.

When the answer arrives, I'm thinking it's going to surprise a lot of people. The resurgence won't begin exactly where you might expect. And the timing and personalities who trigger it are likely to defy expectations as well.

The turning point may be right here in our own backyard, sooner than you think. And it may be arrive in a rather unlikely personality.

Which is to say that the GOP may begin its comeback in November in New Jersey via the candidacy of gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie.

You heard me right: this year in New Jersey, which hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office in more than a decade and hasn't elected a GOPer to the Senate in 30 years.

And the story of this turnaround has as much to do with Gov. Corzine and Jersey's corruption, mismanagement and notoriously high taxes as it does with Christie and the GOP. The situation in the Garden State is so bad that for the time being Christie can simply keep building his campaign war chest and follow that old political rule: When your opponent is self-destructing, be quiet, sit back and enjoy it.

Jon Corzine came into office as the "financial genius" who'd set New Jersey on sound financial footing. But just the opposite has occurred. New Jersey is broke, and bleeding red ink.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington says only New York and Connecticut are in a bigger hole. Quick fixes, runaway state spending and high taxes have plundered the state's spending and destroyed its economy. The Wall Street Journal recently cited New Jersey as a "how-to" manual on the best and surest way to ruin a thriving state economy.

Taxes? The Tax Foundation says New Jersey has the most hostile tax environment for business in the nation, and that Jerseyites bear the nation's highest burden of state and local taxes. (I know. I pay them.)

And we haven't even touched on the state's culture of corruption. Yes, plenty of corrupt public officials, Democrats and Republicans, have been ushered to jail in New Jersey. Sleaziness is non-partisan.

So, what's different about Christie? Well, he's the former U.S. attorney who sent these crooks to jail. Ex-Newark Mayor Sharpe James, ex-state Sen. Wayne Bryant and ex-Senate President John A. Lynch Jr. are just three of the more than 100 losers who wish they'd never met Christie, who's never lost a case.

A recent Farleigh Dickinson poll found that 65 percent of New Jersey's residents believe the state is headed in the wrong direction. Another poll shows Corzine's job approval rating hovering in the low 40 percent range. Quinnipiac shows half the state residents believe Corzine does not deserve re-election. Rasmussen already has Christie ahead of Corzine by a couple of points despite the fact that Christie is hardly well known and hasn't begun to campaign. And even Corzine's own internal poll has state residents questioning the governor's integrity.

But don't count Corzine out.

He's already spent more than $100 million of his own money to gain elective office. He'll do what he has to do. He'll also get lots of help from the national party and the White House. And New Jersey's still a rust belt Democratic state where voters remain more docile than daring. In this atmosphere, political bosses, union thugs and assorted parasites seem to thrive no matter what.

But keep a close eye on New Jersey for the start of a Republican comeback that might just point the way to the future. *

Daniel A. Cirucci is a public relations consultant and lifelong New Jerseyan. He blogs at dancirucci.blogspot.com.