Will Corzine scrape home in a tight race?
Unlike Virginia which appears a done deal, the second of the gubernatorial elections on Tuesday, in the “Garden State” of New Jersey is a much tighter affair, with a key difference being the presence of an Independent candidate who has been polling in the teens. This race may yet see the re-election of the incumbent Governor despite his low approval ratings, and despite the lack of markets with UK bookies, there are prices available with Intrade.
Where Virginia is purple, New Jersey is a solidly blue state. No Republican since Bush senior in 1988 has carried it in a presidential election, and in 2008 Obama won it by over fifteen points, while the GOP have not won a Senate election in New Jersey since 1972, and last won the governorship under Christine Todd Whitman in 1997.
In Tuesday’s election the incumbent Democrat governor Jon Corzine, seeking a second term, faces Chris Christie for the GOP and the independent candidate Chris Daggett, as well as a clutch of minor candidates. Unlike the fairly stable polls in Virginia, in New Jersey the shape of the race has changed dramatically in recent months, as Christie, who enjoyed double-digit leads for much of the summer, has seen his lead whittled down to a dead-heat in the last few weeks, while Daggett’s support has been well into the teens but has weakened more recently.
Daggett has been the wild card in the race and may end up being the reason that Corzine, despite his poor approval ratings (54% unfavourable in a recent poll), just manages to secure a plurality of votes in this election. Daggett has a background in environmental protection and has managed to secure the endorsement of the Star-Ledger newspaper, as well as participating in the debates. He has reached 20% in the polls, but is now down to single digits in some polls, as a shortage of money means a restricted showing in the ad wars.
CBS provides a useful one-paragraph summary of the race: “… a referendum on Corzine and his handling of the state’s economy rather than a gauge of what’s going on nationally. If Corzine wins, it is most likely due to the state’s Democratic voting tendencies, as well as his huge money advantage, his non-stop TV ads criticizing Christie and the insurgent campaign of Daggett taking votes away from Christie.”
The major campaign issues have been economic, with Christie attacking Corzine over his tax record and rising unemployment, while the governor has unsurprisingly pointed to the global downturn as the reason for the state’s woes, although ethics and corruption have also been a target for the GOP challenger.
It looks like it’s going down to the wire – and the polls have certainly borne out Morus’ prognostications of a typical NJ campaign, with the Republicans having an early lead that gets eaten away. The markets are predicting a Corzine victory, with the governor priced at 62 on Intrade at time of writing. If the GOP sweep both the gubernatorials, expect some excited talk on the American right, with possible concern for the Democrats a year out from the midterms, hence Obama making two campaign appearances for Corzine in New Jersey today.
Also well worth a look on Tuesday is the special election for the US House in New York’s 23rd district, where Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman is taking on both the (moderate) official Republican and Democrat candidates, is polling very strongly, and has also crucially been endorsed by two possible 2012 GOP candidates, Palin and Pawlenty, in what the New York Times described as a “referendum on the [Republican] partyâ€™s future.” Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava suspended her campaign yesterday, in a move that makes it extremely likely that Hoffman will win.