New Jersey Democrats In Trouble

The Shapiro ReportBy Michael M. Shapiro

New Jersey Democrats are basking in the glory of a solid national Democratic showing; however, closer to home, the prospects for this coming election are currently not looking rosy. They have good reason to be concerned.

Millions of people throughout our nation have unrealistically high expectations for President-elect Obama. A panacea where partisanship becomes a thing of the past will, in all probabilities, simply not occur. While Obama will try to tackle the problems facing our nation, there is no easy fix to the majority of them. The choices are painful and the American people will not be happy when these difficult decisions are made by the President and the Congress. Furthermore, a significant number of our most pressing issues, from the economy to healthcare to the environment to terrorism, will not be solved in a year and are most likely to get worse before they get better.

In 2009, many of the tens of millions of voters who supported Obama and have high hopes for change may well be disappointed and dejected. Therefore, a year from now the wind will no longer be at the backs of Democrats in our state and throughout our country. Instead, Democratic advances will be slowed down because of the state of national politics and national issues.

The Democratic Legislature in New Jersey has rock bottom approval ratings. With the economy expected to continue to sour over the next year, voter sentiment most likely will proceed in a downward spiral and anger will be directed at the party in power: the Democrats. Meanwhile, there are sure to be at least a few high-profile corruption cases or incidents against elected officials, which will further aggravate the electorate.

Gov. Corzine has poor approval ratings for a first-term governor and he well may face stiff competition on the Republican side of the aisle. Should Corzine stay on and run for re-election, he will probably face Chris Christie or soon-to-be movie icon John Crowley. Currently, Corzine runs neck-and-neck with Christie in a hypothetical matchup during a time when the state voted overwhelmingly for Obama for president and Lautenberg for the U.S. Senate.

In New Jersey, where the mood has shifted in a negative direction for Democrats, Corzine will be in a heap of trouble next year; and his coattails will be nonexistent, providing no benefit to legislators struggling in re-election bids. As a result, Democrats will likely be in for some misery at the polls in the 2009 elections.

Some suggest that the Democrats’ lot would improve if Corzine were appointed to a federal post by President-elect Obama. While it is true that a more popular Democrat could be found to run for governor, he/she would face similar obstacles during the election and, at the same time, have many problems that Corzine does not face. First, Corzine has high name recognition. Most other possible contenders for the Democratic nomination do not. Corzine has tons of money to spend on a race. Very few other Democrats do.

Having already run statewide several times, Corzine also is familiar with the ins and outs of a statewide election, which no other Democrat actively considering a run knows. The governor has a wealth of connections to big-name politicians and business people throughout the country who can provide election support and money should he need it. Few other Democrats in New Jersey would have that support. Lastly, the only Democrat other than Corzine who has many of these advantages is former Acting Governor Dick Codey, who has been sidelined by allegations of impropriety and possibly illegal conduct. These allegations would likely take him out of serious contention.

All of the above lead to the conclusion that at this point, despite a wave of positive feelings amongst Democrats today, the short-term future is bleak, particularly in New Jersey. A populace with its balloon of hope for national change partially deflated, a Legislature and Governor in New Jersey with record-low approval ratings and an economy that is likely to be worse by next year’s election, mean that the Democrats in New Jersey will have a battle on their hands to maintain power. Whether Corzine runs for re-election or not, New Jersey Democrats in 2009 are in trouble.

Michael M. Shapiro is an attorney who resides in New Providence. He currently serves as the editor of the Alternative Press,, New Jersey’s first all-online daily newspaper serving Millburn/Short Hills, Summit, New Providence, and Berkeley Heights. Contact Mike at

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