Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Big Name Democrats Coming To Corzine's Support In Tight Contest

President Barack Obama is in New Jersey today to attend a rally supporting Gov. Jon Corzine's reelection bid. That's following a visit by Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton.

That's a lot of firepower to help Corzine in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans and where Corzine is outspending his Republican challenger, Chris Christie by a 3-1 margin.

There's a reason for that.

The reason is that the race is practically a dead heat.

Corzine has spent tens of millions to smear Christie with nothing but attack ads launched by his campaign or those aligned with Corzine (various interest groups seeking Corzine's reelection).

The Corzine campaign isn't exactly pushing ads showcasing Corzine's achievements since they are few and far between. The state is in horrible financial shape, and Corzine's prescription for solving the state's fiscal problems has been to engage in fiscally irresponsible demands that localities defer or withhold pension payment obligations at a time when the state is already shortchanging the state pension funds by billions of dollars.

The state has spent more than it took in for years on end and financial tricks helped to balance the budget, and this year's budget is no exception. It took $2 billion in federal stimulus funds to balance the budget, which will not be forthcoming next year. That means that extravagant spending plans, like expanding Abbott school funding beyond the original 31 districts will be in jeopardy next year. Instead of realizing that throwing money at problems isn't going to solve them, Corzine's solution is to spend even more money.

Three reasons indicate why the race has tightened in recent weeks. First has to do with the massive attack ad campaign launched against Christie. That's perhaps the biggest reason. Second, Christie has not done enough to indicate what he will do to improve the state's business climate. Third, the emergence of third party candidate Chris Daggett appears to have siphoned support from Christie more than it has from Corzine.

If the state wants to see true improvement and a change in the culture in Trenton, Corzine must go, but the state's voters seem to be buying into the attack ads.

Christie would be wise to highlight the fact that Corzine spent months trying to curtail the state's pension obligations to help balance the budget - and called on municipalities to do the same. Thus far, he has not. That's a big mistake. There is time to fix it, and focusing on how Corzine is doing his best to distance himself from his former Wall Street ties shows just how little Corzine has in his favor, other than his still considerable fortune.

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