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The raid last week in New Jersey that resulted in the arrest of 44 people, including a number of officeholders, probably is the straw that breaks Democratic Gov. Jon Corzines back in November.
When I asked one longtime Democratic insider about the race, it took him all of two words to assess Corzines prospects: Its over. Another Garden State Democrat was more cautious, saying only, Its almost over.
All eyes will now be on the governor, to see whether he follows the lead of former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), who dropped his Senate candidacy late in 2002 when he and party insiders came to believe that he could very well lose his seat to the Republican challenger. Party leaders then picked former Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) to replace him on the ballot, and Lautenberg went on to win in the fall.
Corzines ethics are not the issue, of course. His major problem is the states economy, which includes the budget.
But after the raid, Garden State voters are now more likely to kill two birds with one vote expressing their disappointment with the governors economic performance while also finally making a statement about ethics, corruption and good government. Thats exactly what happened in Louisiana in 2007, when Bobby Jindal (R) was elected governor.
During the July FBI raid, authorities arrested a number of former and current officeholders, including Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini and Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega, all Hudson County Democrats. Ocean County Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt was the lone Republican arrested in the sting.
For months, polls have shown Christie holding anywhere from a 6-point to a 12-point lead over Corzine, who served five years in the Senate before winning the governorship in 2005. Polls have shown the governor draws 38 percent to 41 percent in ballot tests, a sign of his weak position, and he is losing too much support among blue-collar Democrats and independent voters.
Independents, one veteran New Jersey Democrat told me, have stopped listening to the governor. He is well-known to them, and they are ready to move on.
Christie is perfectly positioned to benefit from growing voter embarrassment with the states reputation as an ethical cesspool. He recently added Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno, a 50-year-old former federal prosecutor, to his ticket as lieutenant governor.
Guadagno is a former assistant U.S. attorney (where she was deputy chief of the Corruption Unit) and deputy director of the state Division of Criminal Justice. She favors abortion rights.
Over the weekend, Corzine made his picket for his running mate, selecting state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, 74, of Bergen County.