Just Enough Love For Corzine?

I had my second in-person encounter with NJ Governor Jon Corzine last week. This one was at a “Green Day” environmental fair in Maplewood NJ. Our prior meeting had been a 4th of July parade a couple of years ago. Both times I went out of my way to shake the Governor’s hand. My goal for getting in the hand-shaking vicinity of Corzine last week was to provide a thrill for my 6 year old son (didn’t work) and also just to give a friendly “good luck Governor” to Corzine. As Corzine made a somewhat lethargic handshaking loop around the park, I hovered around his orbit with several other people and got my hand shook. Just I had observed a few years back at the 4th of July parade, Corzine seemed like a regular guy shaking a strangers hand –that is, he didn’t seem particularly excited by the experience. In fact, Corzine seemed pretty passive as a campaigner, showing little of the energetic glad-handing fervor we associate with most successful politicians. Corzine’s lack of enthusiasm as a campaigner was endearing in its own way. Corzine was in no rush to shake as many hands or connect with as many people as possible and clearly wasn’t obsessed about getting the most bang for his campaign stop buck.
But, of course, one person’s genuineness is another person’s “cold”. As we’ve previously noted in this space, Corzine’s “favorable” numbers back up the fact that there is largely a lack of love for Corzine among NJ voters, something that has been true even in better economic times. A New York Times poll released today asked respondents: “Do you think Jon Corzine is someone you can relate to, or not?” Only 32% said “yes”, with 63% saying “no”. And Pollster.com shows Corzine’s favorability at only 37%, with 50% unfavorable . These are numbers that would normally doom an incumbent. And through the summer, Corzine consistently polled around 10 points behind his Republican opponent Chris Christie.
But the gap between Corzine and Christie has closed this past month. The Governor has been helped by a Democratic registration edge, a wider campaign money advantage, and possibly most of all, by a surprisingly strong third party Candidate, Chris Daggett. Daggett, a political novice, has tapped dissatisfaction with the parties and a substantial market for a “none of the above” choice and has shown support approaching 20% in some surveys. As Nate Silver noted: “those voters that Christie is losing aren’t disappearing into the ether. They’re moving, rather, to independent candidate Chris Daggett, who has run on a Bloombergian platform (pro-reform, pro-environment, pro-choice) although without any of Michael Bloomberg’s monetary firepower. The decline in Christine’s numbers since July and the rise of Daggett’s correspond nearly one-for-one.”
As Christie has lost support, Corzine’s support has been amazingly consistent, demonstrating that the Governor has a floor of around 40% that wont be broken on election day. With Obama, Biden and Clinton heading to NJ to firm up the Democratic core, money flowing into advertising to continue to bring Christie down, and Daggett siphoning double digits, Corzine is in a position to eke out a low 40s tally and a victory. With it would come another four years to make the people of New Jersey love him.

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