The Governor’s Race is Far from Over
Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
Some say that the governor’s race is a done deal. Not so
fast. There are some interesting and perplexing trends and circumstances
that will decide exactly who is going to lead our state. Let’s
consider some of them.
--Republican Doug Forrester better figure out fast how to get out
from under the avalanche of negative public opinion directed at
President George Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The
president’s popularity nationally is at an all time low and
in New Jersey, it’s even worse. Even though Bush recently
said he was “responsible” for the failure of the feds
in the aftermath of Katrina, it may be too little too late. Voters
are peeved and Republicans like Forrester who are running for high
profile office are taking the brunt of it.
--Forrester has said the feds screwed up and recently told a group
of New Jersey black ministers that those who are poor and black
in New Orleans are disproportionately affected. I’m not sure
if that’s enough. Forrester has to go for broke and really
blast the administration on this one, even though it’s risky.
He needs to be as forceful on this issue and distancing himself
from the president as he is about fighting what he calls the “culture
of corruption” in New Jersey’s state government. But
Forrester is in a pickle. He still wants to bring in big Republican
names to campaign for him and raise money against Democrat US Senator
Jon Corzine. To do that, he may need the stamp of approval from
the Bush White House. But at this point, Forrester needs New Jersey
voters more, particularly independents and undecideds. Big name
Republican honchos aren’t going to get that done. A clean
Forrester break from the White House may seem unlikely, but it’s
Doug Forrester’s best bet.
--In spite of recent polls showing Corzine running 20 points ahead
of Forrester, this race is not over. The Star-Ledger/Eagleton Rutgers
poll shows that 42% of respondents who offered a candidate preference
said they might change their minds before November 8. If Jon Corzine
makes a huge gaff on the campaign trail, says something incredibly
stupid or something really embarrassing comes out about his past
(be it fair game or not) this race could turn around.
--But here’s the rub. New Jersey voters appear to be somewhat
immune or desensitized to supposedly “shocking” revelations
about political figures. That same Star-Ledger/Eagleton Rutgers
poll showed that most voters couldn’t care less that Jon Corzine
loaned his former girlfriend and state worker union leader Carla
Katz $470,000 (which he forgave). Most voters apparently felt it
was Corzine’s personal and private business. So if anything
is going to hurt Corzine, it’s going to have to be something
about his public record that voters find distasteful and damaging.
The Forrester folks better come up with something fast.
--Let’s talk about taxes. Both candidates say they will reduce
property taxes, but Forrester has a better slogan when he refers
to “30 and 3.” He recently explained to me in an interview
how he would reduce property taxes 30 percent over 3 years by cutting
state government waste, fraud and abuse. I’m not convinced
he can do it, because I think the property tax issue is a lot more
complicated than that and ultimately will require increasing some
other tax, such as the income tax, in order to pay the state government
contributions to public schools. Nonetheless, if Forrester can convince
enough voters in his TV spots and in upcoming debates that he is
the one to cut your property taxes, he might have a shot.
--Finally, the decision to add two non major party candidates to
the Forrester/Corzine debate is something that legally had to be
done, but will do nothing to help voters make the best decision
possible between the two major party candidates. It will only distract
and confuse and take valuable time away from Forrester and Corzine
engaging each other and citizens of the state. The FCC refers to
the inclusion of these other candidates as “equal time.”
Technically they are right, but practically some might see it as
“wasted time.” Either way, check your local listing
for these upcoming televised forums.
(Full disclosure. This fall, Emmy Award-winning anchor Steve Adubato
will moderate a special election series entitled “Democracy
Works: New Jersey at a Crossroads” that can be seen on Thirteen/WNET
New York, as well as on NJN-Public Television, CN8-The Comcast Network
and Cablevision. In the series, Adubato will conduct one-on-one
interviews with Corzine and Forrester, as well as in-depth citizen
focus groups with each candidate.
Steve Adubato, Ph.D. is a commentator, lecturer and former state
legislator. Dr. Adubato is also an Emmy Award-winning television
anchor and syndicated columnist.
He can be reached by fax (973) 509-1659 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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