Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Will Republicans Start a Comeback in New Jersey?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from New Jersey.

Last night, moderate GOP candidate, former U.S. attorney Chris Christie, defeated the conservative small town Mayor Steve Lonegan for the Republican nomination for governor of New Jersey.

Now Christie will take on entrenched Democratic Governor Jon Corzine for the November 2009 General Election.

Currently Christie has a good lead Corzine in the polls. According to a Quinnipiac poll released May 20, Christie’s leads Corzine 45% - 38%, with independents supporting Christie 52% - 25%, and Republicans much more supportive of their nominee than Democrats are of Corzine.

A Rasmussen poll confirms this trend, with Corzine trailing Christie 47% - 38%. A Research 2000/DailyKos poll also finds Corzine behind 46% - 39%.

Much of this is due to the budget shortfalls that New Jersey - like so many other states - is facing in light of the recession. Recently, the governor suggested the state’s popular property tax rebate be cancelled to make up this shortfall.

Yet Democrats outnumber Republicans considerably in the Garden State, where a Republican has not won a state-wide race in 12 years.

Can the GOP really pull it off?

Winning a campaign comes down to three factors - time, people, and money. The most important of the three is time.

With 152 days until the General Election, Corzine will have plenty of time to mount a decent campaign if he can put it together properly. But if those who think they know who they support don’t change their minds, Corzine will have to win over the undecided voters at - at least - a 2 to 1 basis. That is easier said than done.

It’s hard to gauge the second factor - people (volunteers) - because there is really no scientific way of observing who will have the most ground support. At least not at this point. But although New Jersey is a remarkably Democratic state, Corzine is not the most popular politician within the party. 23% of Democratic primary voters opposed him yesterday - a big number for an incumbent. It seems unlikely he will bring in the number of volunteers that his campaign would like to recruit.

Of course, this won’t be an easily won factor for Christie either, as he was certainly the moderate of the two Republican candidates. Typically volunteers are activists who are very ideologically aligned to the right or left - not the middle.

In terms of money, Corzine has the advantage. The governor has raised $3.2 million to Christie’s $2.2 million. Furthermore, Corzine is wealthy. As a former Goldman Sachs CEO he has been able to put $2.3 million of his own money into the race. His net worth may be as high as $40 million. In order to match that, Christie will need a miracle.

But despite a fundraising advantage, Corzine’s future does not look so bright. Nothing is certain, but it will take a lot of effort on the part of his campaign - and perhaps a few slip-ups from Christie’s - to retain his office.

And a victory in New Jersey would be a big win for the GOP as America heads into the 2010 midterm elections.

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