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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Two “Ceilings” in New Jersey

For much of this year, one of the surest bets in political circles has been that embattled New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine would go down to defeat at the hands of Republican former U.S. attorney Chris Christie. Aside from Christie’s (now tarnished) goo-goo rep as a corruption fighter, the thinking was that Corzine had a “ceiling” of somewhere in the low forties, thanks to persistently low approval ratings and the likelihood that most NJ voters had fixed opinions of the incumbents. Thus, for the first time in decades, a GOP candidate would get the late breaks in a NJ campaign, and end the party’s long losing streak in the Garden State.
Now the polls are all showing Corzine and Christie running neck-and-neck, with the big wild card being the double-digit support being attracted by independent candidate Chris Daggett.
At Politico today, Jonathan Martin looks at the race from Christie’s perspective, and focuses on the strategic dilemma faced by the GOP candidate in dealing with Daggett:

Christie, who had been running a traditional anti-incumbent campaign against Corzine, must now reckon with a perennial question faced by candidates who are imperiled by a lesser-known, third-party contender: To attack Daggett is to elevate him, effectively acknowledging that he’s a serious candidate and offering him free publicity. But ignoring him could amount to disregarding the most serious threat to Christie’s campaign, leaving Daggett to siphon away a significant amount of voters who are intent on registering their opposition to Corzine.

But Christie really doesn’t control that decision, since his major funding source, the Republican Governors’ Association, has already started going after Daggett with sledge hammers. It appears their theory is that attacks on Daggett as a “tax-and-spend liberal” will either flip Daggett voters to Christie, or perhaps even drive liberal voters who would otherwise support Corzine to the third-party candidate (who already has significant support from environmentalists). Again, the operative assumption is that Corzine’s vote has hit its “ceiling,” so there’s relatively little risk in drawing further attention to Daggett.
But you have to wonder: does Christie’s vote (now that he’s increasingly campaigning like a conventional conservative Republican) also have a “ceiling,” based on the Republican Party’s legendary handicaps in NJ?
This question shows why the outcome in NJ may have national significance, beyond the silly efforts of pundits to make every state race a referendum on Barack Obama, and the undoubtedly positive impact a Corzine win would have on Democrats who had written off the incumbent many months ago. If the Republican party “brand” is enough to sink a challenger against one of the most vulnerable opponents you’ll ever see, then Democrats aren’t the only party with a lot to worry about going into next year’s 2010 midterms.

One comment on “Two “Ceilings” in New Jersey

  1. bacaangel on

    GOP operatives continue to dishonestly and deceptively spout that they cannot support a public option because they want to keep costs down for the American people! Really? But they know that only a public option can bring about true reform and control the “out of control” medical costs and premiums crippling people and jobs, making it harder and harder to get by. One has to think ahead. If you happen to lose your job today or tomorrow and we don’t have health care reform, who will pay you and your familie’s health care bills.
    The reason that GOP always say Gov’t is the problem is because when you have men/women in power who do Nothing but say no or complain, like the GOP — goverment is a problem! And so it is a self-fulliling prophecy. As long as the GOP are in power or in control, the goverment will be a do nothing, problematic government, which will do nothing for Average Americans. We must remember, this is Bush & the GOP’s recession. They had the power for 8 years and did nothing to uplift this country, only to rape it from Main Street, to add it to Wall Street. The GOP does not even like to raise the Minimum Wage! They care nothing if you are making it. People we must wake up now! Because look around, assess the United States’ situation that we are in and realize over the last 10 years of GOP rule, what have they done for you lately? Or this country? And ask yourself this, if we let them get power again, how much more further will this country be destroyed until the United States will no longer be. That is a very frightening thought

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