Years ago, SNL had a very funny skit where Jon Lovitz played ( inept Democratic presidential candidate ) Michael Dukakis.
At one point during a debate, the Dukakis character responding to comments by the Dana Carvey played George H.W. Bush character says, “I can’t believe i’m losin’ to this guy.”
I was reminded of that watching Daggett’s nothing-to-lose performance Thursday night. He was humorous, refreshing and presented a clear alternative in a campaign wrought with sharp policy disagreements and nasty personal attacks. Daggett had the advantage of playing up the nice and funny side, which at this point would be hard for the two others to pull off.
No doubt, this is now a three-way race. How much of a difference Daggett will make remains to be seen, but the Christie camp has got to be nervous that people who are tired of Corzine’s policies might very well see Daggett as a better protest vote.
As for Corzine, not generally known for his oratory skills, low expectations were his best friend. People I spoke with thought he did more than hold his own. He was able to highlight what his supporters have always said are his good intentions that aren’t always articulated well on the trail.
At a couple of points it seemed as though Corzine and Daggett were even ganging up on Christie a bit – mocking him for not having a specific tax cutting and spending reduction plan.
Christie also landed a couple of solid blows. He repeatedly drew attention to Corzine’s record on taxes accusing the guv of raising taxes and fees during his first term by $9 billion. He also drew a stark contrast between himself and the two other candidates pointing out that neither Daggett nor Corzine would pledge not to raise taxes. Christie would not, and that could go a long way with voters who are feeling a bit taxed to death lately as they feel the pinch of the economic recession.
But to circle back to this point about plans. Corzine has a record. A lot of people don’t like it, but you can’t say he hasn’t been tackling tough issues. Daggett this week unveiled his plan to reduce property taxes. He would extend the sales tax to services, something that he argues is long overdue as the economy has shifted from goods-based to service-based. Again, may not be such a great idea, but at least it’s an idea. The criticism of Christie ( and this has come from within his own party ) is that there is no comprehensive plan to reduce property taxes. Christie said last night that there is “no silver bullet.” True, but some say if voters are gonna change horses they are gonna need a reason. And for the first time last night we saw that a change could easily be made to Daggett as an anti-Corzine vote instead of Christie.