Toss Up: Corzine or Christie?

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By Michael M. Shapiro

Gov. Corzine may have an upside down 40%-51% approval rating; however, he is still in a dead heat with current United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Chris Christie, in a hypothetical matchup for the 2009 gubernatorial election. 

This disclosure is not new.  In August, a poll showed that Christie would defeat Gov. Corzine by only 1% in a theoretical race.  Given the governor’s low approval numbers, it should give him comfort that his strongest Republican challenger can only muster a tie despite all of the problems facing the New Jersey and the shockingly low approval ratings of the Democratic legislature.  

Christie, a former freeholder and fundraiser for President Bush’s initial campaign for the White House, has made battling corruption his top priority.  During his tenure, a number of high-profile politicians have been indicted and convicted, including Newark Mayor Sharpe James. 

Opponents of Mr. Christie have repeatedly pointed out that the majority of his successes have been against Democratic politicians, and they have questioned whether Mr. Christie has behaved in a partisan fashion.  Attacks on Christie escalated after he gave a $50 million+ contract to the firm of former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft to be a federal monitor regarding a New Jersey company.  Christie’s actions were a catalyst for Congressional hearings on the subject as well as calls for reform.  One would think that based on all of this, Christie would be a well known commodity in New Jersey.

However, the surprising finding from a recent poll is that two-thirds of New Jersey residents do not know enough about Chris Christie to form an opinion about him.  While this leaves a great deal of room for Christie to increase his approval ratings, it also raises questions as to how informed our residents are regarding current events.  Anyone who has read the newspaper more than once in the past five years would know who Chris Christie is, at the very least.  

All of this is good news for Gov. Corzine.  More importantly, among Democrats, the governor has a favorable rating of 67% to 21% and by a margin of 60% to 25%, Democrats in the Garden State say he deserves re-election.  Such statistics will cause anyone considering a serious challenge to Corzine in a Democratic Primary to think again.  Should the numbers remain the same among Democrats, a primary challenge is unlikely.

While the race is more than a year away and that is an eternity in politics, the recent poll figures should give comfort to the governor that his support among Democratic voters is fairly strong and that even against the most prolific of potential Republican candidates, he fares well, despite the negativity in the state and nation towards incumbents at this time.  That said, a Democratic governor in a Democratic state should still be outpolling challengers at this point in time.  The fact that Democratic Gov. Corzine is not outpolling Chris Christie in a Democratic state should be a cause for concern. 

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of ShapTalk.com, is an attorney who resides in New Providence. He currently serves as the editor of The Alternative Press, www.thealternativepress.com  Contact Mike at mike@shaptalk.com


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