It’s a tie!
Even though I no longer live in New Jersey, I remain very interested in the state’s gubernatorial race this fall. And after having sizeable leads since the primary, highly unpopular incumbent Jon Corzine has pulled into a statistical tie (or within the margin of error) in most polls and has even taken the lead over Republican Chris Christie in two polls this week.
Independent Chris Daggett has had an impact, siphoning off moderates and independents who dislike Corzine but haven’t been sold on Christie, the former George W. Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Plus New Jersey has become a VERY blue state over the last 20 years. No Republican has won a statewide race in New Jersey since 1997, and the one who won that year – then-governor Christine Todd Whitman, was not nearly as conservative as Christie. Throw in Corzine’s plethora of negative attack ads, most famously the one criticizing Christie for opposing health insurance mandates that include covering mammograms, and it’s not surprising at all to see this race become a barn burner.
Daggett is a real wild card here. State and federal candidates not affiliated with either of the two major parties generally have no chance to win because elections are so expensive in this country. This is especially true in NJ, where candidates have to buy advertising in two of the five-largest media markets in the country. But while Daggett likely won’t win, he very likely could take enough votes from Christie to allow Corzine to win with well under 50% of the vote. Daggett could be to this election what Ross Perot was to George H.W. Bush in the 1992 Presidential election.
Me? I liked Daggett in the first debate far better than I like either Corzine or Christie, and it would be nice to see someone independent of either major party get such a powerful governorship. But since he has pretty much zero chance of winning, I would vote for the candidate who is most different from the status quo. For all of Christie’s flaws, he’d be very different from any governor New Jersey has had in the 17 years I’ve lived in this part of the country. Trenton badly needs a shakeup, and Christie would definitely provide that.