In 2006, Mark Halperin ( now of Time mag. ) and John Harris ( now of Politico.com ) wrote a book called “The Way to Win.” Since I am such an all-politics-consuming dork, I actually read this book. It was about the then upcoming 2008 election, and their conclusion was more or less that it was Hillary’s race to lose ( she did ).
At one point the book talks about politicians getting into trouble during a race when the candidate lets the opponent define him. In other words, when you lose control of your own public image, you lose. They gave a good example involving John Kerry in 2004. Kerry spent the first few weeks of the campaign fighting whisper campaigns that he “looked french” and resembled one of the apple-throwing trees from the Wizard of Oz. He also allowed himself to be painted as a charlatan regarding his military service even though he probably had a distinguished record ( I don’t actually know because I wasn’t in the ‘nam ).
Anyway, I think there is an interesting parallel with Christie. The Christie campaign was hoping he could stand on his record as USA, but instead they have allowed the Corzine campaign to drag him down to the level of many other pols in NJ. Are Christie’s travel records and a $46,000 loan really scandalous? Probably not, but they just seem a bit unsavory in light of Christie running on his record as a crime buster, and as someone who wants to cut government waste. At least that is the image Christie’s campaign has failed to successfully combat. The reason, many analysts say, is that the trivial has become a substitute for substance as fodder for the press. The Christie campaign opted not to offer a solid plan for getting NJ out of its vexing financial conundrum. And remember when it comes to today’s media climate, you gotta feed the beast with something.
Coupla other notes…Corzine’s tax returns are conveniently not going to be filed until after the election, but the Star-Ledger was apparently granted permission to have a look-see. They discovered an $87,000 donation to Rev. Reginald Jackson’s faith-based initiative in 2008. As we now know, Jackson endorsed Corzine last week. Talk about the appearance of being unsavory.
Jackson told NJN News that Corzine has given “most every year,” so last year he “wasn’t thinking about the upcoming election.” It was part of Jackson’s campaign for Bishop which if it had been successful, would have meant Jackson wouldn’t even be in NJ in ’09 to endorse anyone ( he wasn’t successful, and still is here ).
Corzine has yet to comment publicly on this but his campaign said in part, “The donations the Governor made…were completely appropriate and transparent.” Sure, but Republicans don’t think so. And they say it’s not OK to criticize Christie for getting help from Michele Brown by buying her loyalty with a loan while Corzine essentially bought loyalty from Jackson who could be helpful in delivering the key constituency of African American voters to the polls on election day.