Monday, October 12, 2009

22 Days Out From Election Day In New Jersey

For Republican Chris Christie to defeat Democratic Governor Jon Corzine this November he must keep Corzine under 45 percent of the vote. Ordinarily this would signal a landslide, but the independent candidacy of Chris Daggett is the factor that makes plurality the goal line.

Surveys by Rasmussen and Fairleigh Dickinson University have Daggett performing at six percent or less. Quinnipiac has had Daggett trending at nine percent and up to 12 percent since August. Other less established surveys have shown Daggett at as much as 14 percent, but historically this seems unlikely and too high. The general assumption is that Daggett takes votes from Corzine because those looking for an alternative would normally vote for the incumbent but are dissatisfied with the performance yet unready to cast a ballot for the opposition party.

If on Election Day Daggett performs at eight percent, which may be too high an expectation, Christie can win with 47 percent. Given Corzine’s high disapproval numbers demonstrated in all the surveys taken in this contest it is a severe challenge for Corzine to break 45 percent, if one believes he has not yet cracked 41 percent in the ballot test to date.

Yet here is the unknown variable. Rasmussen and FDU both have Corzine at 44 percent as of their recent surveys (Rasmussen: Christie up 3 points; FDU: Corzine up 1 point). Corzine’s disapproval rating is still very high, at 55 percent. However, if Corzine is truly at 44 percent then it is not a stretch for him to get to 48 percent on Election Day. If this is the case, Christie loses if Daggett performs at six percent. This is troubling news for Christie as both surveys are respected and not to be dismissed.

With Election Day being November 3 we are now 22 days out. The most important factor now is money. As of the 29 Day Pre-Election Election Law Enforcement Commission report Christie has $4.2MM, Daggett $109,000 and Corzine (not including whatever he decides to spend between now and then) $20,000.

This means the Daggett variable decreases in value every day less a substantial infusion of cash. Dismissing the surveys that report him at greater than 12 percent on the ballot test but assuming Daggett is as high a eight percent, unless he has more money that ballot test number will drop precipitously over the next three weeks.

$4.2MM allows Christie to be extremely competitive on television and radio going into these closing weeks as there is only so much Corzine will be able to spend in those mediums regardless of the check size he cuts to himself.

At this juncture the advantage is still with Christie. His campaign to date has been long on Corzine negatives and short on issues. More often than not that is how a challenger campaign wins. Corzine has managed to put some lead on the target by bruising Christie’s reformer mantle, but not enough to take Christie out of the contest. Conzine is playing for 48 percent of the vote. If he is currently at 40% on the ballot test Christie has probably won this race. But if Rasmussen and FDU are to be believed, Corzine is on the doorstep of a second term.

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