July 24, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

New Jersey Numbers: Is the Gubernatorial Race a Tossup?

Anyone in his right mind would now have to rate next month’s 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 isn’t 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 I’m on. But, I must admit, I’m not oozing with confidence.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago in a column, Corzine’s 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 public’s view of the governor remains heavily negative in three recent polls that show a dead heat. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey found Corzine’s name ID at 55 percent unfavorable, while Fairleigh Dickinson University had his unfavorable rating at 54 percent and Quinnipiac showed it at 53 percent.

Christie’s unfavorable numbers weren’t good — 44 percent in PPP’s survey, 42 percent in the FDU poll and 40 percent in Quinnipiac’s — but they weren’t nearly as bad as Corzine’s.

In the FDU survey, a stunning 69 percent said Corzine’s performance as governor was only fair or poor. In Quinnipiac’s, 56 percent of likely voters disapproved of how he has handled his job. These numbers suggest that Corzine won’t get many voters who are still undecided.

One Republican strategist I talked with recently equated Corzine’s political positioning to that of a “beached whale,” adding, “We can’t move his numbers, and he can’t move his numbers.”

But if Corzine’s numbers haven’t moved, Christie’s have — down. The erosion in Christie’s 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.

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