Tuesday, June 30, 2009
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.
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