Thursday, October 22, 2009

State of the Race: New Jersey Governor (10/22/09)

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Thursday was a busy day in the New Jersey governors race. Not only was it the day of the last debate between the three main contenders, but we were also treated to three new polls in the race*. The take-home message from those surveys? Corzine and Christie have deadlocked just below the 40% mark, and at least today, independent Chris Daggett has consolidated much of the rest. Across the three polls the independent averaged just over 17% support and passed 20% in the Rutgers/Eagleton poll.

I scoffed at the notion a week or so ago that Daggett could reprise Jesse Ventura's run to the Minnesota governor's mansion in 1998, but today's polling looks an awful lot like the home stretch survey work in that Minnesota race a decade ago. No, there isn't same day registration/voting in New Jersey as there was in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but there is a new (absentee) vote by mail process in the Garden state that could potentially help Daggett in that respect. But the independent hasn't been as vocal as Jon Corzine has been on that front. Sure, the Daggett folks have been nice enough to retweet several FHQ microblog postings on Twitter, but Corzine has been using the service to urge folks to utilize the vote by mail process while Daggett has not. [In between mentions of Obama's visit a day ago, Corzine has been informing folks about how many days are left in the vote by mail sequence. 5 more days apparently.]

FHQ mocks the Corzine camp, but Survey USA was nice enough to ask a "have you voted" question in the survey released today. And though only 8% of the respondents had, Corzine had banked slightly more votes than Christie (44-39) with Daggett trailing at 16%. Christie led Corzine by a similar margin among the 92% of the respondents who had not voted (by mail).

2009 New Jersey Gubernatorial Race Polling
Margin of Error
Democracy Corps [pdf]
Oct. 20-21, 2009
+/- 4%
604 likely voters
Rutgers/Eagleton [pdf]
Oct. 15-20, 2009
+/- 4.1%
583 likely voters
Survey USA
Oct. 19-21, 2009
+/- 3.9%
674 likely voters

And what is the state of this race? Though the incumbent has held a fairly stable line over the course of 2009, he has finally met the 39% plateau in FHQ's averages. Meanwhile, Chris Christie's support continues to wane (below 44% for the first time in our measures) while Chris Daggett is very much waxing (over 10% and growing). All the momentum is with the independent. FHQ didn't get to catch the final debate tonight, but did follow along on Twitter. Daggett remained quiet the entire duration almost while Corzine and Christie (or their staffs at least) had an elevated tweet sniping match (compared to the other debate time tweeting). If that is any indication of how the final 12 days of this campaign are going to be waged (and it will get nasty), then Chris Daggett may well pull off his own Jesse Ventura-type win.

That's still a long shot at this point, but not as long as it was a week ago or a week prior to that. There has been a lot of talk about how these races (New Jersey and Virginia) would be spun by the national parties recently and much of that has shifted to talk of a split (Corzine winning in New Jersey and McDonnell in Virginia), but I wonder how the Democratic Party would spin it if they lost to the Republicans in Virginia and an independent in New Jersey. I suspect it would be rather dire after looking like Christie was handing it to them. Again, will that happen? FHQ doesn't dare speculate in such a tight race, but it is an interesting hypothetical to consider with under two weeks to go.

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NOTE: I feel compelled to remind readers that on multiple poll days like today, the "actual" polling levels are averaged across how many ever polls were released. That's why, for instance, you don't see Daggett on the 20% line as the Rutgers poll had him.

*It should also be noted that today was also the day that Corzine passed Christie in the Real Clear Politics and Pollster poll aggregations.

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