The Real Clear Politics average from June 3 through August 18 shows Governor Chris Christie with a 34.4% lead over his opponent Senator Barbara Buono. Conventional wisdom says the governor cannot lose. A look at past elections combined with a deeper look inside the polls indicate this may not be true. Here are 4 reasons why the Christie administration should not take his re-election for granted. Figure(1) illustrates this.
Reason (1) : Who is Barbra Buono? The Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics tell us the voters don't know.
The Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics June 3 through June 9 poll indicates the perception of Senator Buono is unknown among a majority of potential New Jersey voters. She has trouble with republicans and conservatives. This would be true of most Democrat candidates. This means she is a blank page for most voters. This is subject to change. She must raise and spend enough money to establish an image before it is established for her by the Christie camp. This is not an easy task and will be impossible if her fund raising falls short. Figure (2) and table (1) illustrate these points.
Reason (2) : While Governor Christie is personally popular his handling of key issues is not.
This data comes from the same Eagleton poll. Figure (3) and table (2) show the top three issues as ranked by the poll. A majority of those polled either disapprove or don't know how they feel about the governor's performance. There is a disconnect between the peoples perception of Governor Christie's performance on specific issues and his overall approval rating. This is something Buono may be able to use to her advantage if she has the money to do so.
Reason (3) : Governor Christie requires a low turnout in democrat areas to succeed.
The 2009 Corzine / Christie election saw a significantly larger turnout in republican vs democratic municipalities. The municipalities that Christie carried accounted for slightly over 63% of the votes cast yet are slightly over 58% of the registered voters. The municipalities carried by Governor Corzine were about 37% of the total vote yet these towns were about 42% of registered voters. Democratic strongholds did not vote at the levels republicans did. The towns Christie carried had a 51% turnout while the municipalities Corzine carried had a 47% turnout. (see Figure (4) and Table (3)
What would the election look like if the municipalities that Corzine carried voted in the same proportions but turned out at the same 51% turnout?
The extra votes from Democratic leaning municipalities go 2 to 1 to Corzine. The Christie victory drops by 75,000 votes to about 11,500. This explains the special election for US senator following Senator Lautenberg's death. Essex County provides a large Democratic plurality and Cory Booker would turn out a Democratic landslide in Essex County that could cost Mr. Christie his job. (SEE FIGURE (5), FIGURE (6) AND TABLE (5)
Reason (4) : Governor Christie requires a low general turn out to win.
There are two off year elections and one presidential election year for the US Senate in the table above. Governor Christie's 2009 victory was by 86,714 votes or about 3.5% of the votes cast. This was against an unpopular Governor Corzine. He received about 48% of the votes cast.
The US Senate election of 2012 had a turnout of about 61% (a presidential year) and the losing Republican Senatorial Candidate, Joseph Kyrillos , lost by over 656,000 votes but received over 189,000 more votes than Governor Christie received in his victory.
Every 100 votes cast greater than the votes cast in Governor Christie's 2009 victory provides between 67 and 75 votes to his democratic opponent. This is why the governor is doing everything he can to keep the vote down especially in the cities. (SEE FIGURE (7), FIGURE (8) AND TABLE (6)
Bottom line The Buono campaign has a rough road ahead. They need money to drive Christie's positive image below 50% and bring their vote out. They need to get the governor's margin down to 10% (55% vs 45%) and bring out about 900,000 more votes than 2009 to have a realistic chance. Does she have the money and the organization to do this? Time will tell.