Tuesday, June 30, 2009

State of the Race: New Jersey Governor (6/30/09)

Status quo.

That's all you can really say. As June closes on the New Jersey race for governor, the best you can do to sum things up is to say that Chris Christie won the month. The Republican candidate for governor led in all four post-(June 3)primary polls and cleared the 50% barrier in each of them. If Christie maintains that level of support throughout the summer, it won't matter if Corzine gains the support of all the undecideds down, the incumbent governor will still come up short in his bid for re-election. Of course, there's a long way to go and the campaign has yet to heat up (as it will in the fall). And the Democratic National Committee has entered the fray by trying to repackage the "McCain has a short fuse" narrative for New Jersey voters with Christie as the principal. That's clever, sure, and it is certainly better coming from the DNC than from Corzine at this point, but countering the "Corzine's to blame for the state of things in New Jersey" will be a tough proposition.

Long story short, though, how does the new poll from Public Policy Polling (pdf) affect FHQ's graduated weighted average for the race? As was mentioned already, Christie is still hovering over the 50% barrier in polling, but lost in that is the fact that Corzine is at his highest level of support in any head-to-head poll (against Christie) for all of 2009. It is a high water mark for Corzine, but the governor continues to trail his challenger by about ten points. In other words, Corzine is rising (ever so slightly), but that gain is coming from undecideds and not at the expense of Christie. Again, that won't be a means to an end here. Corzine won't win this race if all he's doing is securing undecideds while taking nothing away from Christie. There is no evidence to suggest that Corzine is pulling in undecideds at any great clip -- it could just be statistical noise between polls at this point. If, though (and this is a big if), Corzine were able to make substantial gains among those undecideds (something that likely will not happen until the fall), then that closing polling margin may put pressure on the "weaker" Christie supporters (I'll define that as independents for the moment.) to rethink things.

That, as I said though, is a big if. Where things stand entering July is that Christie maintains a substantial lead in a potentially anti-incumbent race and that Corzine's chances may hinge on making the race about Christie and not himself. That's easier said than done, though.

Recent Posts:
The Best Inside Account of the First Democratic Change Commission Meeting

Future Democratic Change Commission Meetings

The 2012 Presidential Candidates on Twitter (June 2009)


Robert said...

What would be interesting to see is how much of the Christie support is pro-Christie and how much of it is anti-Corzine. Pretty soon Christie will need to carve out some positions between conservative Republican and moderate Democrat. As his positions become more articulated can he continue to hold on to both the pro-Christie vote and the anti-Corzine vote? Corzine needs to put Christie into uncomfortable positions without adding to his own negativity. If Christie can come across as a second Tom Kean, Corzine has no hope. If Christie is only the flavor-of-the-month with little staying power, the margin will melt quickly.

Josh Putnam said...

Good points, Rob. This basically falls back on the old "define yourself or run the risk of having your opponent define you" principle.

The DNC is doing their part. Corzine will eventually do his (but that will likely be in the fall).

So, let's look at the PPP poll (the newest poll cited above): Do we have a question on how firm those respondents are on their vote choice? Ah, we do. They couch it in terms of how "committed" you are to your current choice. And in this poll there is 70/30 split between committed and uncommitted.

In other words, there's some wiggle room for Corzine.

The problem remains the favorability ratings. Corzine's continue to be abysmal for an incumbent (36% fav./56% unfav.) whereas Christie has a positive differential between the two (43/33, but with 25% unsure -- Corzine's unsure level was at 8%.).

Again, there's some wiggle room, but not much. Corzine is still walking something of a tightrope in this race.

Jack said...

As a resident of a state which borders New Jersey, I can pretty safely say that it's all anti-Corzine, not pro-Christie.

Let's keep in mind that Corzine has been involved in many negative campaigns and has won by keeping his opponents' unfavorables as high as his own, not by winning the love of New Jersey's voters — the Forrester race comes to mind. This can be a winning strategy — if New Jersey voters hate both candidates they'll mostly vote for the Democrat.

Robert said...

That's such an encouraging note, Jack. It's sentiments like that to gives you faith in the American political system.

Josh Putnam said...

Would something like that really happen in New Jersey? It sounds so cynical and unJersey-like.

Seriously though, how far does Corzine have to pull down those favorables on Christie to be on something of a level playing field? It is already tilted toward the Democratic Party, but not necessarily Corzine.

I'll have to think about that some.

Josh Putnam said...

Well crap. Rob beat me by one minute and had a better response. Oh well.

Jack said...

New Jerseyans don't much like many politicians, even though they elect them by overwhelming margins. As Public Policy Polling writes, "there are plenty of examples in recent New Jersey history of voters expressing dislike for a politician and then reelecting him anyway. Frank Lautenberg is a good case in point- polling in 2006 showed him as one of the least popular Senators in the country and in late 2007 just 36% of voters in the state said he should be reelected. He nevertheless won an easy 56-42 victory last fall."

Even Obama has only a 53% approval rating in NJ despite winning the state with 57.27% of the vote.