By Jeff Michaels | August 23rd, 2009 - 10:58am
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Is it possible that the revelation about Chris Christie's loan to a colleague in his office has re-shuffled the chess-board of the gubernatorial election?

There can be no doubt that any week a campaign is on defense is a bad week for that campaign.  While the earlier revelation from Karl Rove that he had conversations with Christie were trumpeted by his opponents as something nefarious, it had the ring of true inside baseball uninteresting to voters outside the realm of political junkiedom (a politician running for office today might have talked to someone about it? yawn).

The loan gives the Corzine campaign more ammunition, inasmuch as Christie admitted that he made a mistake (albeit worth all of $400), in not reporting it and the pittance of the income it generated.  And it is the second "un-forced error" of the Christie campaign.

But have the fundamentals that were underlying this race been altered in any meaningful way?  I don't think so.  Here's why:

An incumbent election is always a referendum on that incumbent and his/her record, and the mood of the population, as evidenced by the percentage of voters who think that things are moving in the right or wrong direction.

Today, Governor Corzine's numbers on all these scores is very very low.  In fact, they are much worse than Governor Florio's numbers at this time in 1993, when he lost re-election.

In these circumstances, an incumbent's only hope is to make the challenger candidate so unacceptable as an alternative, that the incumbent is re-elected regardless.

I don't think anyone can credibly argue that even with the latest revelations, Chris Christie is approaching "unacceptable" as an alternative.  The Corzine campaign has a long way to go to make Christie an unacceptable alternative. 

Moreover, the political environment does not seem to have changed much, and there is growing evidence that it is improving for Republicans.  In recent polls conducted for the state Assembly Republicans, the Governor is seriously under-performing his 2005 results, and most meaningfully, voters in these districts are voting Republican for Legislature, in solid numbers.

1991 was the last time Republicans were winning the so-called generic ballot in these districts, and in that year the Republicans won control of 2/3 of the State Legislature.

President Obama's numbers have also cooled.  Among NJ independents his dis-approval ratings have climbed and are now equal to his approvals.  That is a stunning drop, among independent voters, in just 8 months.

Nonetheless, the Corzine campaign has accompanied its aggressive opposition research marketing to the press with a large paid media advertising campaign since June, outspending the Christie campaign by 10:1 on the air.

This is all likely to take a toll on Christie's leads in new state-wide polls.

But pay attention to Governor Corzine's actual ballot number in the new head-to-heads.  If he succeeds in lowering Christie's lead, but remains in the low 40's, past history suggests an incumbent with continuing serious problems. 

While the fundamentals of this race have been shaped by voters interpreting events for themselves for the past 4 years, and they currently favor Christie, the GOP candidate's campaign cannot afford any more unforced errors.  The room for error for a Republican in NJ is so low as to be non-existent.  If $5-6 million of Corzine advertising can affect an 8-12 point lead over the summer, what will happen when even more get spent in the fall?

The Back Room

Passaic County Building and Construction Trades Council backs Sayegh in Paterson Mayor's race

The Passaic County Building and Construction Trades Council today endorsed Andre Sayegh for Mayor citing his effective leadership, efforts to combat crime, and promotion of business and overall economic development in the City of Paterson.

Read More >

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: April 18, 2014

Fulop endorses Smith in Bayonne mayoral raceBAYONNE - Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop parachuted into the Bayonne mayoral race on Thursday night by endorsing incumbent Mayor Mark Smith."It is a pleasure to be with you here, Mark," said Fulop to a crowd of more than 125 supporters at a...

Op-Ed

The future of NJ Politics should not be politicians investigating politicians

By JON BRAMNICK Voices around the country agree with our concern that "bipartisan committee led by John Wisniewski is partisan." Below are observers who agree Wisneiwski's committee is not bipartisan: Chuck Todd, NBC News: "Democrats made a mistake... Read More >

Contributors

(4-16-14) New Jersey Vote By Mail Law - The voter turnout for New Jersey’s November gubernatorial election was the lowest since the days of prohibition, coming... more »
When it comes to profiling Christie, facts are for wussies (4/10/14) - As the national media stories on our Guv pile up, expect more blunders about the Garden State.... more »
This week I begin a series called Dispatches from Somewhere Else. Based on my on-going experiences as an everyman in New Jersey politics, these Dispatches review the hollowness of... more »
Watching Governor Chris Christie's shocking BridgeGate implosion, it's easy to forget the time when he truly seemed unstoppable.  Blessed with incredible political gifts and a Jersey bluster to match,... more »

Quote of the Day

Quote of the day

"This is my first Mark Smith event. There have been a lot of changes in Hudson County over the last year and a half, and the most important change that has happened is that there really is unity. For the first time, we really are working together. Despite political differences. Mark and I have worked very hard to repair that. I'm really happy to be here in support of him, because I recognize that when you work together, politics becomes secondary and you really have time to focus on government, which is the most important thing." - Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop

- PolitickerNJ.com

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