Archive for the ‘Governor’s Race’ Category

When we first learned that Governor Christie will be stumping for GOP candidates nationwide, we realized NJN needs to cover it in some fashion. Flying to California and renting equipment was a bit – um, cost prohibitive…so when we saw that Christie would be in Cincinnati this week for Ohio Gubernatorial candidate John Kasich we decided to make the trip.

First, lemme talk a little bit about our journey ( which was really not that interesting so it won’t take up too much space here ). NJN has a satellite truck which can get a live shot onto the evening news from pretty much anywhere in the nation. So, we decided to drive that piece of equipment here to Cincinnati from where I write this blog. Actually, we are staying just across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky. we drove out through Pennsy on the Turnpike taking us through the Blue Mountain and other tunnels. We passed briefly through West Virgina and ended up in Ohio for the rest of the way. It is a roughly 600 mile trip. So, after the return, Cameraman Bob Wick and I will have traveled the equivalent distance of roughly 1/3 of the continental United States by truck. Ah, the glamorous life of an NJN Reporter.

But here is why this is so newsworthy. For starters Christie is a rising star in the GOP. Not a tea party guy, but an establishment candidate who can win in a blue state. This story has been slightly under-reported in light of the big, out of nowhere victories of Tea Partiers such as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. Christie is stopping by ten different states for GOP Gubernatorial candidates. He has already hit CA and NM. This week he is in Ohio ( yes, I know I said that already ), and next week he hits four states in two and half days – WI, IA, IL, MI. Next month he will do two events for Tom Corbett in PA, and he will also drop in for Tom Foley in CT and Bob Ehrlich in Maryland ( who wants his old job back ). In most of these cases Christie does a fundraiser and public event. BTW – I am told the fundraiser for Meg Whitman in CA raised $2 million – the largest single fundraiser of her entire campaign so far.

According to the Republican Governor’s Association, the GOP comeback in this country begins with statewide races. It started last year with Christie and Bob McDonnell in VA. There are currently Republican Governors in 24 states but there are 37 Gubernatorial races this year ( 37! ). Not only will that be a barometer for how folks are feeling locally, this is a pretty significant year to win locally since redistricting will take place in 2011 following the 2010 Census results. That of course will control the alignment of power for the next decade.

So, there are a coupla themes here. First, Christie is almost the antithesis of the tea party insurgence. He is a Republican who has broad appeal, and he is limiting his appearances to candidates in states that have recently gone for Democrats but could very well wind up going for Repubs this time around. In addition, the majority of the candidates Christie is parachuting in for are currently ahead in the polls. The exceptions are Meg Whitman in Cali, and the aformentioned Foley of CT and Ehrlich of MD ( Foley appears to be behind by a lot , the others less so ).

A person close to Christie tells me he has gotten requests from literally all over the country but opted to focus instead on these ten ( although more may be added ). He will also do a handful of stops for GOP Congressional candidates in Pennsylvania just across the Delaware River.

So, while our Governor is primarily focused on the local races of Jon Runyan in the 3rd, Kathe Donovan in Bergen County and Tom Goodwin in the special election for Baroni’s old seat, he is carefully choosing some other races where the appeal of a “Jersey Guy” just may make a difference.

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It’s that time of the year again. The New Jersey Press Association presents the Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show.

Basically, the state’s  ( now dwindling ) press corps performs a series of skits and songs that mock the political and media elite of the Garden State. It is often quite funny replete with costumes, wigs and other flamboyant accessories that would make even Elton John blush.

As for my role…well, I am El Presidente this year. That means I don’t actually have to sing ( which is not my strong suit ). I have to deliver the introductory speech which is supposed to be funny and slightly mean spirited. Well, I don’t know how funny it shall be, although I’m working on it. It will most certainly be biting, and of course familiar.

Then of course, after the show is over, people get to stand around and hang out in a cocktail party-type atmosphere which is even more fun. And the whole evening is off the record. So, if you are remotely interested, I urge you to purchase tickets. Proceeds go to charity.

Contact Peg Stephan 609-406-0600 ext. 14. or pastephan@njpa.org

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I don’t put too much stock in the polls, because frankly they have been all over the place. Suffice to say, that almost anyone you talk to agrees: this race is too close to call.

Democrats have been saying privately that their internals show them up by five or more, but some of their faces tell a different story.

Here are some numbers to consider. In 2005 Corzine bested Forrester by 200,000 votes. But a lot’s changed since then. According to the Division of Elections, there are nearly 500,000 new registered voters since that last gubernatorial election. There were 4.8 million then, and there are 5.2 million now. Obviously, a lot of those new voters registered specifically to vote for Barack Obama in the historic 2008 election. So, is there any evidence that they will…

a) have the same level of enthusiasm and vote again


b) even vote Democratic.

Tough to say. Democrats are hoping it breaks for them. Certainly the numbers are there for a win if the motivation blossoms.

But now consider this…since June 2 of this year there are 76,294 new registered voters(!). Of those  12,349 are Dems, 7,082 are Repubs and 55,759 are unaffiliated. Those unaffiliated’s could be the difference in this race. And here’s the thing: they are not registering to vote for Obama.

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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.

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As far as the New Jersey sports fan goes, it couldn’t be a more tailor-made weekend. The Yanks are playing the Phils in the Series. The Giants take on the Eagles Sunday, and even the Sixers face off against the Knicks on Saturday ( that’s right, I know some of you north jersey Knick fans are out there ).

New Jersey is literally in the middle of all of it, and many writers have tried with different degrees of success to tie the current election into some sort of all encompassing sports metephor. Suffice to say, that particularly in the series and with the NFL game ( smattering of Jets fans aside ) half of New Jersey is gonna be disappointed with the outcome.

How does that affect the Governor’s race? I have no idea. would disgruntled Phillies fans be less likely to vote, and therefore that favors the incumbent since there are more repubs in south j?? Sorta hard to start playing with the numbers on that one. More relevant for Chris Christie to win this thing is how many people go into that booth on Tuesday, can’t find Daggett’s name on the ballot, quickly lose their enthusiasm for the third party candidate, and wind up pulling the lever for Christie because they know they don’t like Corzine.

So what is a candidate to do? Corzine is White Sox fan. I don’t even know where to begin with that one. Christie is ( as we all probably know ) a huge Mets fan. I join him in that eternal suffering. I guess we’ve had some highs with the lows, but the last few seasons have been painful and watching their division rival Phillies take on the Evil Empire Yankees is enough to make a Mets fan spontaneously combust.

So, here is my cheesy conclusion: Ultimately, Met fans like me will watch the series because it’s great baseball. And any good politician can get away with making that argument when confronting Phillie fans in the south, and Yankee fans in the north. That’s not dodging the question, but stating the obvious.

And the great thing about baseball rivalries is that they are based on geography and personal history, not ideology.

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For the most part, my broadcast stories going forward are going to be all rainbows and ponies. It will be straight news about what the candidates are doing each day up until the election. Stories with lots of natural sound so we can hear and see what’s happening out there.

There, have I made a compelling case for a what a principled reporter I am? Good. Now allow me to undermine it slightly.

I have to come back to this issue, because it keeps cropping up. It’s the now infamous Corzine ad about Christie that says he “threw his weight around.” Was this a veiled reference to Christie’s weight? The conventional wisdom is that it was. Even Corzine has now admitted it was a poor choice of words. But, very few people have looked at what the ad is actually suggesting…which is that Christie walked away from a traffic accident involving a motorcyclist without getting a ticket after identifying himself as US Attorney. Here is what Christie said about it on Fox News on Tuesday.

Let’s be clear. According to the accident report ( and I’m just rehashing what I’ve written before ) Christie turned the wrong way down a one-way street. Motorcyclist Andre Mendonca turned his bike on its side and slid into Christie’s vehicle. But it was Christie who crept forward through a red light.

I know the weight thing has garnered some sympathy for Christie. And I know he was asked about it by the anchor on Fox ( who clearly has not been following the race very closely ) but it might be time for both candidates to move beyond that ad. Because it doesn’t paint either one of them in a  flattering light. In fact, it sorta exemplifies what everyone is griping about when they talk about the “negative tone” of New Jersey’s 2009 gubernatorial contest.

Alright, puppies and ice cream. Here I come.

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Interesting editorial in the Ledger over the weekend about where Daggett’s name will actually appear on the ballot in most counties.

While one poll showed Daggett at 20%, how many people will actually pull the lever for him once sealed in the voting cubicle has been a source of much speculation. Adding to that is the reality that some people may not even be able to find his name.

In Essex County, Daggett’s name is the second one listed in column D. The Socialist Party candidate Gregory Pason is higher up than Daggett, as is Jason Cullen the People Not Politics nominee.

kinda odd considering Daggett qualified for matching funds and appeared in all three debates. Oh yeah, and he’s the only one with a new plan to reduce property taxes. Zing.

Well, if you follow NJ’s old world style of politics it actually makes perfect sense. It goes back to a 1965 court case that sprang out of Essex County. Independent George Richardson was trying to get on the ballot, and the Essex County Clerk  Nick Caputo didn’t want his name higher than the two major party candidates. Caputo won. And the precedent setting case deterimined that from then on in New Jersey, Republicans and Democrats are the top two spots and everyone else is on equal footing as their names are literally drawn out of a rotating lottery machine. So, Daggett’s name could have conceivably been last on every ballot in every county ( he isn’t, it’s more of a hodge-podge ).

I suppose Daggett is at least greatful that in Essex he is not below Gary Stein of the All The Way party.

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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.

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Corzine likely has a quite a week of positive news coverage ahead of him. On Monday Joe Biden is here ( again ). Tuesday it is former President Bill Clinton. And Wednesday it is the actual President – Barack Obama. it’s an understatement to say New Jerseyans have heard of these people. And in a blue-leaning state it probably helps the Guv.

So here is my question. Where are the Republican stars? Where is Colin Powell who still commands enormous respect from people on both sides of the aisle. And the million dollar question…where has Christie Whitman been?

Granted, Whitman’s tenure at the EPA and her subsequent testimony before congress about the air quality at ground zero probably left a bad taste in some New Jerseyans mouths. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have been effective with some targeted campaigning. After all, Whitman was the last NJ Republican to win back to back terms in statewide elections.

Officially, Mike Duhaime, Christie’s top strategist says they “aren’t going to play that game.” This election is not about “celebrity endorsements,” and the more the election comes down to the choice between Christie and Corzine the better it is for Christie. So while Corzine is parachuting in the stars, Christie will be keeping it real with kitchen table talks involving real people like he is doing Monday.

But wouldn’t Whitman have been just a little helpful to boost numbers among women? Could she have been used to let women know, for example, that Christie is not trying to take away mammograms???

One Republican tells me that Whitman’s numbers are terrible. She is not well liked here. The exception being single women between the ages of 25 – 44. So why not use her there?

Another Republican told me that there is still a rift between Christie backer Bill Palatucci and the Whitman camp dating back to the ’93 primary when Palatucci worked for Cary Edwards. not sure of the details, but I was told that Whitman herself may not hold a grudge but her husband John still does.

Whatever the reason, it’s hard to make the argument that Christie isn’t playing the star game a little. After all, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is headlining a fundraiser for Christie Monday night. And throughout the campaign both Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney have been here for the Republican.

I can certainly understand the Christie campaign not wanting to cozy up with Bush and Cheney. But let’s be honest, everybody likes a star to shine for them every now and again.

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The FOIA request has finally arrived and the big revelation is that Chris Christie – drum roll, please – exceeded federal spending guidelines when traveling for work as US Attorney.

On the surface, this actually sounds a bit reckless. Feeding the Corzine narrative that Christie drives recklessly,  ignores laws like reporting income and sometimes gets a little hyperbolic in his criticism of officials he has prosecuted.

But a close examination of said travel reimbursements reveals no smoking gun. Which may make some Democrats annoyed who have been watching the ticking FOIA clock on politickernj like that debt clock in Times Square as though we were counting down to Armageddon.

Moreover, all of these expenses were approved. Even the ones that went over the limit. And the US Department of Justice appears to be taking great pains to avoid fueling the perception that there is something scandalous here. In fact, some have privately downplayed the significance of what these records reveal.

Sure, there was the five day jaunt to London that cost Christie and Michele Brown more than $400 per night each for their respective hotel rooms. Christie’s portion of the whole trip wound up being more than four grand. Then there was the Boston trip with its nearly $500 rooms. But according to Christie they were necessary trips for his work as USA – specifically to speak to companies about how to comply with deferred prosecution agreements. The Corzine campaign accuses him of giving out “no-bid” contracts for those DPA’s…but that’s a whole other can-a-worms.

The total cost of roughly 87 trips over seven years was nearly $100,000. But compared to what? And how much of that was over the limit? Sure it may sound high to some, but what the hell do they know having never served as US Attorney???!!

Then there is the issue of mileage reimbursement. Apparently, Christie was reimbursed for 27,000 miles traveled ( mostly around the state and region ). We have already learned that Christie preferred to ( ahem ) drive himself ( see earlier posts ). So what does this say? Again hard to quantify without a strong basis of comparison.

What did jump out a little was that he traveled more in 2008 ( $5000 reimbursed approx. ) his the final year as USA than he did in 2002 ( $2000 reimbursed approx. ), his first year in office. And one of those reimbursements was for a Mets Phillies game in Philly on June 22, 2005.

So, some of these facts are notable and others are not. But I hardly think this is the fatal blow to Christie that Dems had been hoping for.

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