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Anyone in his right mind would now have to rate next months gubernatorial election in New Jersey as a tossup. After all, virtually every poll shows the race within the margin of error, and some recent surveys show Gov. Jon Corzine (D) leading GOP challenger Chris Christie.
Moreover, climbing out on a limb to give one of the candidates an advantage in a virtual dead heat isnt the best way to guarantee that your percentage of correct calls remains high so that you can send out a press release after the elections to brag about how astute you are.
But this column is about analysis, scenarios and best guesses, and since I still believe that Christie has the single best chance of winning the Garden State governorship, I see no reason to crawl completely off the limb Im on. But, I must admit, Im not oozing with confidence.
As I noted a couple of weeks ago in a column, Corzines numbers are going nowhere fast in other words, he is not gaining on Christie. He remains stuck pretty much where he has been for many months in the 39 percent to 42 percent range, even in a just-released Quinnipiac University survey.
The publics view of the governor remains heavily negative in three recent polls that show a dead heat. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey found Corzines name ID at 55 percent unfavorable, while Fairleigh Dickinson University had his unfavorable rating at 54 percent and Quinnipiac showed it at 53 percent.
Christies unfavorable numbers werent good 44 percent in PPPs survey, 42 percent in the FDU poll and 40 percent in Quinnipiacs but they werent nearly as bad as Corzines.
In the FDU survey, a stunning 69 percent said Corzines performance as governor was only fair or poor. In Quinnipiacs, 56 percent of likely voters disapproved of how he has handled his job. These numbers suggest that Corzine wont get many voters who are still undecided.
One Republican strategist I talked with recently equated Corzines political positioning to that of a beached whale, adding, We cant move his numbers, and he cant move his numbers.
But if Corzines numbers havent moved, Christies have down. The erosion in Christies standing has made the race tight.
While the GOP challenger was around 50 percent on the ballot test in July and August, he has slid into the low to mid-40s in most recent surveys, all but erasing his lead over Corzine. His personal negatives have risen correspondingly.
Independent Chris Daggett seems to be drawing enough votes away from Christie to make it possible for the governor to sneak into a second term with less than 45 percent.