CHRIS PUMMER: While Chris Daggett may be soaring — relatively — in the three-way race for the governorship of New Jersey, the third-party candidate who might be the best choice to govern still has little chance of winning.
As exciting as it may be that Daggett recorded his best polling numbers yet last week, he still has yet to break 20 percent any any major poll. He’ll probably need to double that in the final vote tally to pull out a victory.
Incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine has suffered from low approval ratings since last year, but has consistently polled between 35-43 percent. Considering the massive advantages a Democrat in New Jersey has — from more registered Dem voters to an effective political machine that will drive votes out — the absolute floor for Corzine is probably 36 percent of the tally. He’s more likely to get more than that as a share of the total vote.
Republican Chris Christie, meanwhile, has seen his fortunes fade. After leading Corzine in the polls by big margins all year, he’s in a virtual tie with him now. After touting himself as a tough, no-nonsense U.S. Attorney, Christie’s brand has been tarnished by a continuing stream of revelations that he abused his power in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
If Daggett is going to get to 36 percent of the vote to at least match what Corzine should capture, he’ll have to drive Christie below 28 percent.
That’s where Daggett runs into problems.
It’s unlikely that Daggett will be able to chip off many registered Republicans from Christie’s bloc of support. Those are voters who would rather stay home than cast a vote for a left-leaning independent. If those Republican voters also represent 40 percent of the total, Daggett’s only path to victory — getting at least a third of the total ballots cast — is completely choked off.
Could things change? Maybe.
Daggett could begin polling in the high 20s, and that might embolden Democrats with reservations about Corzine — and there are many — to switch allegiances. That scenario is still doubtful as a number of those voters would still not want to throw the race in Christie’s favor. It is plausable.
But even then Daggett probably still doesn’t pull enough votes to finish in front of Christie.
Daggets chances of being the next governor of New Jersey are remote at best, but most likely impossible.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Chris and I agree that Daggett, most likely, will not be the next Governor of New Jersey. We’ve seen too many races with the independent fading at the end, rather than coming on strong and pulling off the shocker. In other words, Jesse Ventura’s win is noteworthy because it is such a rarity.
However, I think the stars are best aligned for Chris as they’ve been for any third-party candidate for governor since Ventura a decade ago.
Keep in mind that at this point, Ventura was considered the “spoiler”, to quote the headline of CNN’s story about him. The October 15-18 poll had it Skip Humphrey 35%, Norm Coleman 34%, Ventura 21%. But over the final weeks of the campaign, clearing that 20 percent hurdle seemed to allow voters to take seriously the possibility that Ventura could win.
Well, there are a few other factors in play here. The defining characteristic of the race is that a large majority of New Jersey hasn’t wanted to see Jon Corzine re-elected. That hasn’t changed, no matter how much money Corzine has spent on his own campaign.
But Chris Christie may already be damaged beyond repair as a reasonable alternative. Not only has he failed to put forward even a rough idea of what he’d do, a steady drip of corruption scandals has long since eliminated him from consideration as the clean alternative to Corzine. Between this and the constant refrains about his weight, Christie’s been a lethal combination of the old Thomas E. Dewey “man on the wedding cake” and someone who eats several tiers of said cake.
All it will take is a single poll showing Daggett above 20 percent, and he will become the story. I agree with Chris that Christie’s support is likelier to crater than Corzine’s, particularly given the leanings of New Jersey. However, far too many Democrats don’t want to vote for Jon Corzine to assume he’ll hold onto that base if a Daggett election becomes plausible.
Keep in mind: Minnesota was an awfully Democratic state in 1998, and Skip Humphrey had unparalleled name recognition.
Ventura took until late October to get his first 21 percent. By Election Day, an early one (November 3), he won with 37 percent of the vote.
Chris Daggett is likelier to be a Ross Perot or a John B. Anderson than a Jesse Ventura. But that will be up to him; the circumstances are aligned for him to win if he can make the sale.