You know, just as Corzine had managed to bob and weave through this campaign without any fatal mistakes, sure enough the most derided idea of his Governorship resurfaces five days before the election.
I am referring of course to the Governor’s toll hike plan, first proposed in early 2008. By most accounts, for certain distances Turnpike tolls would have risen for drivers by as much as 800% over several years. This idea was roundly rejected by the public. And Corzine heard that rejection first-hand when he went out on the road to sell it with ( what some said was a condescending ) power point presentation.
Anyway, he took his licks, he shelved the issue, and it went away. sort of.
On Thursday the New York Times published a piece based on interviews with both Corzine and Christie which were apparently (at least in Corzine’s case ) conducted a week earlier. The Governor reportedly sat for 70 minutes with David K and Halbfinger. And according to a source close to the Governor, the Times reporters were very unhappy that they weren’t granted more time.
The story ( published in print editions Friday ) said the Governor was considering revising a plan to lease the Turnpike, which was actually slightly different than the plan to raise tolls – although it’s hard to say what the final package would have looked like. It might have been an amalgam of both. Anyway, this story led to a barrage of press relaeses from Christie and the Repubs saying Corzine wants to resurrect that bad idea.
I wasn’t in the room, so I don’t know what exactly was said. I know both Times reporters, and respect them both very much. I am certainly not buying the suggestion that they were being vindictive for not getting enough red meat answers to their questions.
But having covered the Governor, I do think it is entirely plausible that he didn’t explain himself all that well. And today, when I asked him about it in Bayonne he could not have been more definitive. Both toll hikes and leasing the Turnpike are “Off the table. period. Not being brought back.” He also said the Times story was wrong.
But here is something else he said which makes me believe this is a classic case of Corzine’s miscommunication – The Governor will consider finding ways to make money with rest stops and other areas along the Turnpike. Well, go back and forth with reporters over that subtle distinction a few times, and everyone who walks out of that room will be telling a different story.
The Corzine campaign did not seem real eager to pick a fight here. And I’m not sure how the times will respond, if at all. But I think the lesson here is that when a candidate opens himself up to nuance a few days before an election…particularly on an issue that is a liability for him, he can expect it to make big headlines whether that is fair or not.
There might be a reason the Administration has blown through so many Communications Directors. Although it sounds like this time it’s on him.