Republican former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie leads incumbent governor John Corzine (D) by nine percentage points, 42-33, in a new poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University. The results should boost confidence among NJ GOP voters that Christie can take down the increasingly unpopular Corzine. Fifty-six percent of respondents said that they have a negative opinion of Corzine, a -23 rating, compared to 31% who had a favorable impression of the corruption-fighting Christie, a +19 spread. Still, 58% said that they had not heard enough about Christie to have an opinion, a number that will only go down as the campaign progresses.
Surprisingly, Christie’s Republican primary challenger, former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, also bests Corzine in a head-to-head matchup, 37-36. Lonegan is not as well known as Christie, and trails him in the primary by 43-21%.
The bottom line in these numbers is that New Jersey Republicans have a golden opportunity to take down Corzine in November, if they can avoid a bruising primary fight. Such a victory, coupled with a win in Virginia’s gubernatorial contest, could spark a Republican resurgence heading into the 2010 Congressional elections. Both candidates in New Jersey should keep their eyes on the prize – defeating Corzine – and avoid attacks on each other, so as not to play into Corzine’s hands. If they can manage that, New Jersey could become a November bellwether.