I thought it would be much closer than this. And the polling over the last few months suggested it would be. But barely 2 hours after the polls closed, Republican Chris Christie has been projected to become the next Governor of New Jersey, defeating incumbent Jon Corzine.
With 74% of the precincts reporting as of 10:20 p.m. ET, Christie leads 50% to 44%, with independent Chris Daggett getting only 6% after polling in double-digits for months. Christie is the first Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey since Christine Todd Whitman won her second term as governor in 1997.
Corzine used his Goldman Sachs millions to run negative ads and attack Christie’s character and political positions (which admittedly are quite conservative for NJ). But Christie stayed on his message of attacking the high unemployment and taxes in the state and promoting his record as a corruption-fighting U.S. Attorney who will clean up the mess in Trenton. I hope he does just that, because heaven knows Trenton needs cleaning.
“The people of New Jersey said, ‘No more negative personal campaigns,'” Christie said in his victory speech. “In the face of a $30 million onslaught that consisted almost exclusively of negative personal campaigns against me, my family and my friends, the people of New Jersey decided enough is enough.
“Tomorrow we’re gonna take back New Jersey for our families. Tomorrow we’re gonna take back New Jersey for our neighbors. Tomorrow we’re gonna take back New Jersey for the least fortunate among us who do not want the government to fix every problem.”
This one is far worse for the Democrats than Virginia. Obama made several trips to campaign for Corzine, and New Jersey is a very blue state where Democrats have won statewide elections by sizeable margins for most of the last 20 years.
Good luck to Christie. Between the mess in Trenton and the hostile legislature he is sure to face, he’ll need it.
It’s part of every election – endorsements, both from individuals and from the newspapers. Given the decline of newspapers everywhere, the latter doesn’t hold the clout that it used to. But they’re interesting to see in New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Election, given the state’s very liberal political leanings and the unpopularity of the liberal incumbent.
Republican challenger Chris Christie, the former GWB-appointed U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, has been endorsed by three of Gannett’s New Jersey papers – the Courier-Post (Camden), the Courier News (Bridgewater) and the Home News Tribune (East Brunswick). Presumably, he’ll also be endorsed by Gannett’s other New Jersey papers (the Asbury Park Press and the Daily Record of Morristown) and, given its conservative editorial slant, the Trentonian.
Most surprisingly, the Star Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, has endorsed independent Chris Daggett.
Christie’s endorsements come from more community-oriented papers, Corzine’s from the big city ones that don’t cover New Jersey as thoroughly (especially these days).
Christie jumped out to a huge lead in this race by hammering Corzine on his record. But Corzine, with a rather large personal fortune to tap into, spent the summer running ads that defined Christie as another Bush type, a very toxic label in this state that has a strong aversion to anything Republican. The ads about Christie favoring the dropping of health insurance mandates, in particular for mammograms, were especially effective. Throw in the issue with the loan to his former assistant U.S. Attorney, the wrong way street traffic accident and the not-so-subtle shots at Christie’s…um…size, and he plummeted in the polls, with many of his votes not going to Corzine, but to Daggett. And Christie, without Corzine’s money or the ability to call in heavy hitters from the national party (I don’t think having Sarah Palin or Jim DeMint stump for you is a way to win over New Jersey), has had trouble fighting this shift in narrative.
There will be plenty of drama two weeks from tonight.
The Newark Star-Ledger, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, has endorsed independent Chris Daggett for governor.
“The newspaper’s decision is less a rejection of Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie than a repudiation of the parties they represent, both of which have forfeited any claim to the trust and confidence of the people of New Jersey,” the editorial says. “They share responsibility for the state’s current plight.
“Only by breaking the hold of the Democratic and Republican mandarins on the governor’s office and putting a rein on their power will the state have any hope for the kind of change needed to halt its downward economic, political and ethical spiral.
New Jersey needs radical change in Trenton. Neither of the major parties is likely to provide it. Daggett’s election would send shock waves through New Jersey’s ossified political system and, we believe, provide a start in a new direction.
It would signal the entrenched leadership of both parties — and the interest groups they regularly represent — that an ill-served and angry electorate demands something better.”
The Star-Ledger editorial board members obviously weren’t the only ones caught up in Daggett’s performance in the first debate. Problem is, despite that performance, Daggett still isn’t even breaking 20% in the polls, let alone getting the 35-40% that he will need at the VERY MINIMUM to win.
As I’ve written here before, candidates not affiliated even indirectly with either the Democratic or Republican parties almost never win state or federal elections anymore, in large part because elections cost too much. And they especially cost too much in New Jersey, where you have to buy advertising in both the New York (largest) and Philadelphia (fifth-largest) media markets.
Most of the people voting for Daggett will likely be those who are disenchanted with Jon Corzine but, for various reasons, aren’t sold on Chris Christie. This increases Corzine’s chances of winning considerably. In fact, you could argue now that the race is less between Corzine and Christie than it is between Christie and Daggett. Christie can’t afford to have Daggett siphon off any more of his votes.
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.