Less than 24 hours from polls closing in New Jersey, the governors race has shaped up to be a referendum on the voters of New Jersey rather than the candidates themselves. Both candidates, the embattled incumbent Jon Corzine and the slovenly Bush lackey Chris Christie, are battling high unfavorables. Are the voters in NJ so desperate for change that they will hold their noses and vote for the foul-tempered, corrupt and completely devoid of policy ideas Republican? Or will they hold their noses and vote for the wildly unpopular former Goldman Sachs (two words which have joined the so-called “7 dirty words” in their vulgarity) Co-Chairman Democrat? With both of the major party candidates so disliked, could we see a big turnout for conservative 3rd party candidate Chris Dagget (endorsed by the state’s largest paper the Star Ledger, and currently polling at a robust and unsustainable 11%)?
Last November, in the wake of President Obama’s convincing march to victory, it would have been tough to imagine any Republican, especially a neo-con like Chris Christie, would be the favorite in a gubernatorial race in the Northeast. The fact that Christie is polling at about 40-45% instead of 30% comes down to a few things:
1. Incumbents face an uphill climb. With unemployment officially hovering around 9.8% (and more importantly U6 around 17%), any incumbent is going to face the pitchforks of the impatient local residents. Even 5 stump speeches by President Obama haven’t lifted Corzine’s numbers beyond 40-43%
2. Corzine’s Wall Street ties. Hating Wall Street is as en vogue in 2009 as hating Russians was a few decades ago. Right in the middle of the financial meltdown was Corzine’s former employer, Goldman Sachs.
3. New Jersey voters have never warmed to Corzine. Despite winning with 54% of the vote in 2005 (after the McGreevey debacle), Corzine’s favorability was at a paltry 35%.. After climbing to 50% in ’07, it plunged again as he (along with every other incumbent governor) had to make tough decisions to balance the state budget.
All things were looking good for a Republican takeover of the Governor’s mansion…..until they decided to nominate wingnut Chris Christie and his trail of corruption and long history of foul tempered antics. A more moderate Republican (like Jersey’s last Republican Governor, Christine Todd Whitman) would probably be a solid favorite heading into tomorrow’s election. Instead, the GOP has decided to embrace the far right and go with Christie. For awhile it looked as if Christie, despite his wingnuttiness, was going to win. And then voters got to know him. Predictably, they didn’t like what they found out…and his numbers tanked accordingly (of course his bizarre antics, daring Corzine to call him fat, didn’t help).
With just about every poll close (and a few outliers in each direction), chances are votes will be counted long into Tuesday night and early Wednesday. The deciding factor may well come down to which candidate can peel the most support from Independent Chris Daggett (the type of conservative that CAN win in New Jersey….thankfully the GOP doesn’t like sensible conservatives these days). Many pollsters, not all, seem to think that the Daggett voters are more likely to break for Corzine.
Also in Corzine’s favor is the fact that New Jersey has become fools’ gold of sorts for the GOP. In just about every election since 2000 the state has been a toss-up until the last minute. Democrats are hoping the Corzine can follow in the footsteps of Kerry, Menedez and Obama and pull off a comfortable victory come election day.
Anyone who has followed politics for a long time could tell you the possible ramifications of a Christie win tomorrow. When Whitman defeated Florio in 1993, the GOP was able to regain national momentum and the 1994 midterms reflected their new-found enthusiasm. Anytime the GOP can take down a “Northeast Liberal” who is supported quite visibly by President Obama, they will see a big spike in fund raising. Corzine epitomizes every aspect of the “Big Government, Family values destroying, big spending, tax hiking” Democrat the GOP brainwashes their ill-informed supporters into believing.