After examining the polling in both states for the better part of five months, it is fairly clear that these races have virtually no national implications. In New Jersey, the election last night was as much about Jon Corzine as 2006 and 2008 were about George W. Bush. That is to say that each was about an unpopular incumbent. Corzine had not, as FHQ mentioned yesterday, broken the 45% barrier in polling all year and he needed to round his percentage of the vote share up to get there last night. The Democrat's chances hinged completely upon Chris Daggett's ability to siphon off votes from Christie and make 44 or 45% the winning total. When Daggett came up well short of where FHQ and most other monitors expected the independent to end up (He pulled in about half of his expected share; 5%.), Corzine basically had no chance. As was talked about on The Monkey Cage earlier today, someone viewed negatively and behind in the polls has to attack and bring his or her opponent down to their level. Lee Seligman put it better: "It’s not so much that attackers lose as that losers attack." Corzine had to attack, but in the end couldn't bring Christie down to a beatable level.
The end result in Virginia was the same -- the Republican won -- but the process of getting there was very different. I don't think that Chris Christie or Jon Corzine were particularly great candidates, but in the commonwealth, Bob McDonnell just outclassed Creigh Deeds as a candidate. McDonnell basically held an advantage throughout the year no matter which Democratic candidate was pitted against him; an advantage that crescendoed rapidly when the votes began to be cast a day ago. Deeds, seeing that McDonnell had been spotted an edge, was essentially in the same position John McCain was in a year ago relative to Barack Obama, except the Democrat was without a presidential-level campaign team. [I'm not talking about folks from within the Obama administration. I'm talking about campaign staff that is steeped in experience. McCain had that. Deeds did not.] FHQ isn't here to throw Deeds under the bus. I just think that McDonnell was in the position of being able to take the high road (as most frontrunners are) through the thesis ordeal. Deeds' campaign, meanwhile, latched onto that story and quickly became associated with it to the point that once the issue faded there was no previously constructed message on which Deeds could lean.
One other thing that might also be mentioned (that I haven't seen discussed anywhere) is how the primaries in this race played out. The parties tinkering with their presidential nomination rules would be wise to take note of this. FHQ won't argue that the Democratic primary battle hurt Deeds. It didn't. But Bob McDonnell was ceded the Republican nomination. In the absence of competition, the former attorney general was never forced to run to the right. Not only did that not provide Deeds or any other Democrat with any fodder for the general election campaign, but it also helped McDonnell, even with the thesis out in the open, to foster a more moderate image. In the end, it isn't the primary battle that's negative so much as the easy road to nomination is beneficial.
I'm a day late on the updates in New Jersey and Virginia, but it was all for a good cause. Of course, we wanted to do our yearly homage to Halloween, and what better way to do that than in the context of the gubernatorial races in the Garden state and the Old Dominion. [I still like last year's celebratory Halloween post better.]
I had the pleasure of talking with my two favorite New Jerseyans tonight about their thoughts on the gubernatorial race in the Garden state. Both are politically knowledgeable and extremely independent thinkers who spend five to six months out of the year out of the state taking in the rest of our beautiful country. If I had to guess -- and they certainly aren't terribly up front about this -- one is a Democratic leaner and the other is a Republican leaner. And that's if I was forced to guess.
Needless to say, I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with them once I found out they were passing through on their way home to vote on Tuesday. Sure, it is nice to look at poll numbers -- representative ones at that -- but the chance for a two respondent poll was too much to pass up.
The results? Bad news for Corzine.
The money quote? "We're going home to vote; not to vote for someone, but to vote against someone."
President Obama was efficient at "banking" early votes a year ago. A year later, Jon Corzine, the incumbent Democrat Obama is trying to pull over the finish line in this race, has a couple of unbanked votes trekking the final leg of their yearly odyssey across the United States coming home to the Garden state. No, my friends aren't necessarily the bellwether that a state like Missouri has been on the presidential level, but they are a pair of what Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling has identified as grudging voters; arguably the face of this election on Tuesday.
Further north in New Jersey, the race for governor is shaping up to be a potential all-nighter. [Well, we have to have at least one every election cycle, I suppose. It won't be in New York City or Virginia.] FHQ will resist the urge to say that Corzine has comeback from the dead in this contest. Sure, the governor has inched up slightly of late, but he can't claim to have momentum other than to say that the race is tighter in a traditionally blue state. Fine, that could be considered momentum to some degree, but it pales in comparison to the negative momentum Republican Chris Christie has had in the surveys that have been released over the last handful of weeks. His descent since the end of September (at least in FHQ's measure -- see below) has been a marked contrast to the steady state that was typical of his summer in the polls. [There's no doubt that others saw a more pronounced gain for Christie during June and July.]
While Virginia is quickly being supplanted by the three way race in New York's 23rd congressional district in terms of competitive interest, New Jersey is not; buoyed by a three way race of its own. Of course, things were seemingly back to normal on Tuesday, a day after a Suffolk poll found incumbent, Jon Corzine ahead by an unseen-to-that-point 9 point advantage over Republican Chris Christie. Today, though, it was back to the within the margin of error polling leads that have marked this race in the Garden state for the last few weeks. Both Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling found as much in the state, though PPP's margin between the two major party candidates was technically outside of the margin of error.
Another day brought another couple of polls in the Virginia governors race showing Bob McDonnell pulling away from Creigh Deeds. It was not the kind of day Deeds otherwise would have wanted considering that the president was coming in to campaign with the Democrat. The McDonnell campaign has to feel good knowing that even despite Obama's appearance in the Old Dominion, much of the talk surrounding the day's polls centered on comments like, "It basically seems like Democratic voters in Va. are giving up on this election." That's never a good sign coming from a pollster.
A nine point Corzine lead? According to a new Suffolk survey of the Garden state, that is the case. However...
It was Suffolk's first poll in the state for this race.
The sample size is on the small end; only 400 people.
There were a lot of undecideds (14%). The last time there was anything in the double digits for undecideds was the September 9 Rasmussen release (10%). Let me add some context: that was "You Lie!" week.
Is the poll something to be dismissed? No, but it should certainly be treated as an outlier. At one end of the spectrum (an extreme application of the margin of error), if Corzine cedes five points to Christie, the Republican has a one point edge. If you were to do Monte Carlo simulations given the data in this poll, that particular outcome wouldn't come up very many times though.
Today continued a string of poor days for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds. It was a day that not only saw his opponent's campaign, Republican Bob McDonnell, hand over $25,000 to the Republican running for attorney general in the state, but also saw a continuation of the back and forth between national Democrats and the Deeds campaign over President Obama's involvement in the race. And if that wasn't enough, the Washington Post late in the day released another poll in the race showing basically no change in a 53-44 lead McDonnell held over the Democrat two and a half weeks ago. And it doesn't look like tomorrow's news is going to be any brighter for Deeds.
Thursday was a busy day in the New Jersey governors race. Not only was it the day of the last debate between the three main contenders, but we were also treated to three new polls in the race*. The take-home message from those surveys? Corzine and Christie have deadlocked just below the 40% mark, and at least today, independent Chris Daggett has consolidated much of the rest. Across the three polls the independent averaged just over 17% support and passed 20% in the Rutgers/Eagleton poll.
I scoffed at the notion a week or so ago that Daggett could reprise Jesse Ventura's run to the Minnesota governor's mansion in 1998, but today's polling looks an awful lot like the home stretch survey work in that Minnesota race a decade ago. No, there isn't same day registration/voting in New Jersey as there was in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but there is a new (absentee) vote by mail process in the Garden state that could potentially help Daggett in that respect. But the independent hasn't been as vocal as Jon Corzine has been on that front. Sure, the Daggett folks have been nice enough to retweet several FHQ microblog postings on Twitter, but Corzine has been using the service to urge folks to utilize the vote by mail process while Daggett has not. [In between mentions of Obama's visit a day ago, Corzine has been informing folks about how many days are left in the vote by mail sequence. 5 more days apparently.]
FHQ mocks the Corzine camp, but Survey USA was nice enough to ask a "have you voted" question in the survey released today. And though only 8% of the respondents had, Corzine had banked slightly more votes than Christie (44-39) with Daggett trailing at 16%. Christie led Corzine by a similar margin among the 92% of the respondents who had not voted (by mail).
Well, this felt like a slow day on the polling front in Virginia and New Jersey. After a bevy of polls a day ago, there was but one poll released today. [I'm still trying to figure out how I processed all those polls a year ago in the presidential race. Five polls was nothing; especially this late in the race.] And Public Policy Polling's peek into the state of the race in Virginia wasn't like any of the polls a day ago. It seemed to settle in between the optimistic Survey USA poll (Well, optimistic if you're Bob McDonnell.) and the, in FHQ's estimation, more accurate Clarus Research Group survey. At 52-40, favoring McDonnell, though, it looked just as bad to the Deeds campaign. At this point, anything over double digits is a big hit to the Democratic state senator. And when the likely electorate is only 33% Democratic and 16% African American, it just isn't going to turn out well for the Democrat. It is no wonder, then, that when Obama visits, he's hitting the Hampton Roads area instead of Northern Virginia; the black vote is the target.
The chatter around the New Jersey gubernatorial race this Tuesday three weeks before the election centered on whether independent Chris Daggett could actually win the election in the Garden state. 77% of the new Quinnipiac survey's respondents thought not, but that didn't keep the good folks at NBC News' First Read from wondering aloud about the possibility. Well, at the very least it didn't prevent First Read from making a flawed connection between Jesse Ventura's win in the Minnesota governors contest in 1998 and Chris Daggett in 2009.
Yes, environmentally, Minnesota had an electorate that was seemingly against both major parties down the stretch in that race whose candidates were deadlocked in the polls. However, New Jersey and Chris Daggett are missing two very important ingredients from the Ventura formula: money and election day registration. [Oh, and if the Minnesota ballot in 1998 was anything like this -- which is a heck of a lot better than this -- Daggett will have had something Ventura did not: a ballot problem.] Does any of this mean Daggett cannot win? Well, there is an awful lot of mounting evidence, but I suppose the idea can't be completely dismissed.
It's too bad Public Policy Polling conducted a poll in New Jersey over the weekend. I'm sure those results will be interesting (They are bound to find their way onto FHQ somehow.), but PPP was the last polling outfit to show the Virginia race any closer than eight points -- where the new Mason Dixon poll finds the contest between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds in the Old Dominion. It would be nice to see the before and after because most of the other polling firms weighing in since have shown a widening gap between the two major party candidates in Virginia.
I don't know that there is much to say here. The race for governor in New Jersey is very simply getting tighter. Jon Corzine found himself again on top of the race in a poll for the second time this week, doubling his total of polls led from (way) earlier in the year. Now, that isn't to say that Chris Christie has lost the advantage -- he hasn't here at FHQ or elsewhere -- but the momentum is squarely against the Republican at the moment. And the sudden jump of independent Chris Daggett in the polls (especially this week into the mid-teens) seems to be drawing directly from the former US attorney. All three candidates are breaking new ground. Daggett is threatening to break the 10% mark, Corzine is inching toward 40% and Christie is now about to fall under 45% for the first time since FHQ began tabulating the averages of this race in mid-June.
No, they just don't seem to work, at least not from the Deeds campaign's perspective. Bob McDonnell's thesis seemed to have made a dent in the summer margin between the Republican and his Democratic opponent during the latter half of September, but first Rasmussen and now the Washington Post have shown McDonnell stretching what was a shrinking lead a month ago back to around the ten point mark. [We'll set Survey USA to the side for the moment as the firm has consistently shown a much broader McDonnell advantage without terribly much fluctuation. FHQ isn't attacking the methodology just the fact that, unlike the two polls cited above, there really has not been that much change to speak of in the series of Survey USA polls out in this race since the June primary.]
It is always one thing to say you're gaining on your competition, but to actually get in a position to surpass him or her is another thing entirely. And while Jon Corzine hasn't exactly been gaining on Chris Christie in the polls so much as Christie has been sliding, the incumbent is now within striking distance. Of all the poll releases since (the completely arbitrary date of) September 21, all six have shown a race within four points. [And depending on the sample sizes, all are within the margin of error.] And in the Fairleigh Dickinson poll out today, Jon Corzine has his first poll lead since January. One could say it has been a roller coaster ride. It has; just not for Corzine, who in the two polls released today reached the high water mark or his polling support this entire year. Despite that, Corzine has been stuck for the better part of the year in the 37-38% range in most polls while Chris Christie has been the one to see a dramatic rise into the 50% range and a subsequent fall since.
One week further down the gubernatorial campaign trail in the Old Dominion and the picture looks the same.
...at least from Survey USA. The polling firm continues to show a double digit lead for Bob McDonnell. However, this is the closest the race has been in the series of polls Survey USA has done in the Virginia gubernatorial race since the two polls immediately prior to the June 9 Democratic primary (leads of one point and four points for McDonnell, respectively). But minimally closing the gap yet remaining over ten points back is a small consolation to the Deeds campaign as the contest enters the final four weeks. FHQ is still of a mind that these polls are on the McDonnell-heavy side. The likely voter model Survey USA has been using has yielded more Republicans than Democrats -- as has Rasmussen -- yet Rasmussen has found a tighter race. Well, slightly tighter anyway.