The ballots are barely certified in the New Jersey primary election on June 2nd and incumbent Democratic governor/former Goldman-Sachs CEO and Obama prototype Jon Corzine is already on the attack. Dipping early into his vast accumulated personal wealth, Corzine has released two attack advertisements on Republican challenger, Chris Christie. For his part, Christie is using public financing and thus limited in his use of funds until later in the campaign. Corzine is attacking now because he is watching the polls, especially the post-primary bump which benefitted Christie. Currently, Christie holds a 50-40% lead which is outside the margin of error of most polls. Corzine’s favorability rating is 36% (56% unfavorable) while last month it was 38%. And while New Jerseyans realize that the nation as a whole is in a recession, 55% of those polled say Corzine does not deserve a second term in office. Another 44% do not view Corzine as trustworthy or honest (which probably has something to do with breaking promises and his more than cozy relationships with the State’s public service employee unions). Among independents, Christie leads by 24 percentage points, has an 88% approval rating among Republicans and, most surprisingly, a 19% approval rating from Democrats. That has to be discouraging to an incumbent Democrat by any measure. Hence, the early attack ads on Christie because these numbers, should they hold out, spell a loss for Corzine in November.
Steve Singiser over at dailykos.com notes that although these numbers are discouraging now, when push comes to shove, the state’s voters often pull the Democratic lever come Election Day. He uses as proof the recent Senate election of Frank Lautenberg and the election of Barack Obama. In fact, that did happen this past election where the Republicans- at least as far as President was concerned- were closer 45 days before the election than the final margin of victory. But lest one forget, there was the intervening collapse of the financial industry and McCain’s own campaign bungling that did him in. Whether Corzine’s recent ads have any impact will be determined with the next polls to be released. Right now, actually, there is the general lull that happens in the summer before Labor Day. But, if Corzine’s numbers do not improve after Labor Day- and given the state of New Jersey’s economy, there is no reason to expect improvement- expect the ads to become more brutal.
As for the most recent advertisements, they are fairly misleading, if not outright lies and misdirection. The first advertisement- “Who Stands With You?”- states that Christie opposes the right to choose (a ploy to get the woman’s vote), that he stands with NRA, that he is silent on global warming and would weaken environmental laws, and that Corzine is creating the climate for the creation of jobs. The second ad states that Christie would curtail health coverage (including mammograms- again a ploy to get the female vote), give corporations costly tax breaks, again mentions the right to choose, would refuse Obama stimulus funds, and quotes a newspaper editorial describing Christie’s property tax plan as “fantasy.”
Regarding the “right to choose” accusation, Christie has stated that he is decidedly “pro-life.” However, there is nothing in any statement he has said that he would roll back a woman’s right to choose in New Jersey. It is one thing to give voice to the pro-life movement’s sentiments and another thing to single-handedly, as Governor, roll back any pro-choice laws. As for being a shill for the NRA, Christie’s tenure as Federal Prosecutor in New Jersey was marked by over 800 gun law case convictions. He has broken up gangs in major urban areas of the state because the state, under Corzine, failed! In fact, under Corzine, the murder rate has increased 9%, rapes have increased 15% and burglaries have increased 7%. Apparently, NOT being in the pocket of the NRA hasn’t exactly solved any crime problems in New Jersey under Corzine’s leadership. Weakening environmental laws? New Jersey has some of the most arcane and convoluted environmental regulations in the country. However, under Christie, there have been several high profile prosecutions- some resulting in jail time besides extracting fines. The best way to tackle polluters is to hit them in the wallet and then actually collect the money. In fact, in one case, the money from the fine imposed was used to purchase 120 acres of land and expand existing wildlife refuges in the state. Jon Corzine has created jobs in New Jersey? The unemployment rate in New Jersey is higher than that of New York which was hard hit by the financial crisis. Jobs are leaving New Jersey, as is the population because it is one of the highest taxed states in the country for citizens, businesses, and property owners with little in returned services, unless you happen to be a public sector worker. Corzine has, in fact, raised taxes and fees 103 times in four years as Governor. Why would any business want to move to New Jersey to face these ridiculous taxes, not to mention the even more ridiculous business regulations and hoops one must jump through with Trenton? I know- I HAD a business in New Jersey and never will again! Today, New Jersey ranks #1 in terms of tax burden (that’s not good) and has for the past three years and running. New Jersey has been in the top five states since 1998 when they ranked sixth (under a Republican governor). In terms of the business/corporate tax environment, New Jersey ranks dead last amongst states (it ranked 48th when Corzine took office- he took a bad situation and made it worse). Forbes ranks New Jersey #34 for overall business environment which takes into account more factors than just taxes. And while New Jersey ranks 12th in terms of an educated workforce, it also ranks 1st in teacher pay to the delight of the teacher’s unions who also have Corzine in their pocket. And speaking of fantasies, Corzine promised a 40% reduction in property taxes if elected the first time. They have actually increased under Corzine.
The bottom line is that despite the fact New Jersey is a decidedly (and unfortunately) blue state, the economy- not the right to choose, gun laws, views on global warming, the availability of mammograms, and environmental enforcement- will decide this election. Clearly, the runaway spending in Trenton through give aways to core Democratic constituencies have set the state on a dire path with reality. It is not enough to blame George Bush for the problems of the State, which Corzine is already stating. And lest he forget, Democrats have run New Jersey itself for the past eight years, not George Bush, not Dick Cheney, not the Republican Party. The mess in New Jersey was created by Democrats and Democrats have taken a bad situation and made it worse. It is California only with a smaller and declining population. Before this recession, which is being blamed on Bush, New Jersey was no better off anyway. To now claim that the state is caught in the maelstrom of national events denies the reality of recent history. Every June is met with a budget crisis!
The following is an example of how Democrats solve problems in New Jersey and illustrate how a bloated government regulatoy bureaucratic structure confounds a situation. It is like Obamacare in microcosm. In New Jersey, in an effort to keep the best high school graduates in-state for college (the fact they were leaving in the first place says something in itself), they created the STARS program which essentially grants full four-year scholarships for high school graduates who graduate in the top percentages from their high schools. It has been a somewhat successful program in its intended effect. This past year, the State decided that in order to qualify- they don’t currently know when it should go into effect- the student must complete a high school course in economics (either macro or micro). One would think that the Department of Education would decide the issue and get on with writing checks for these scholarships. But, there is also the Commission on Higher Education which had to decide the reliability of the course content. Not to be outdone, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority said that since they were in charge of the actual scholarships, they should make the decisions. Hence, you have three state agencies unable to make a simple minor decision blocking the whole show. Mind you, these are three state entities with their own budgets and their own bureaucracies. This is the state of New Jersey. That business I owned? My license to do business in the state was held up pending payment of a cigarette floor tax imposed under McGreevey. To resolve the problem, we had to actually take a day off from work and drive to Trenton. After being pointed to various agencies, we eventually ended back at the Division of Taxation (which is where one would imagine taxes would be processed- but not necessarily in New Jersey). The problem was that the floor tax on my cigarette inventory was applied to another business- an insurance office 80 miles away (perhaps, the first insurance office in the country to also sell cigarettes?). This is the state of New Jersey.
In conclusion, if Singiser’s analysis is right and New Jersey voters revert to their true blue form come the first Tuesday in November, then New Jersey has a greater problem than the tax environment or the business environment. I am afraid that New Jersey may have the most stupid or ill-informed or ignorant voters in the country. It will be interesting to count the number of times Corzine invokes the specter of George Bush in the upcoming campaign. It will also be interesting to see if Christie’s numbers hold up come the fall and if they do or they improve, will Saint Obama expend capital trying to get a loser re-elected, or will he distance himself from Corzine? When push comes to shove, Corzine did not “deliver” New Jersey to Obama. Events outside the state created that outcome. Can Obama “deliver” the Governor’s mansion to Corzine for another four years? Remember- it’s the economy and the economy of New Jersey is not getting any better despite Obama’s stimulus and it is not projected to show any improvement through November. It won’t get better until the runaway spending in Trenton and the bloated, ineffective and overlapping bureaucracy is addressed. And here, Corzine has not shown an effort or desire to do this. This may not be a national referendum on Obama in New Jersey. But it may just be the tax and spending revolt this country needs to warn Obama. Along with Virginia, let’s hope and work towards that goal.