With less than a month before Election Day and polls showing a tightening race for governor, the Republican Jewish Coalition is stepping up its campaign for undecided Jewish voters in New Jersey.
“We are planning an aggressive issue advocacy effort targeted at the Jewish community,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC.
“For the last three weeks of this campaign we are going to be running full-page, full-color ads in all the Jewish newspapers across the state” in support of gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie, Brooks told NJ Jewish News.
The RJC is expected to emphasize Corzine’s record and the state’s unemployment rates, high property taxes, and relatively low ratings among groups that measure a state’s “tax climate” for businesses.
Brooks insisted the stepped-up effort would help sway Jewish voters who generally support the Democratic Party.
“The whole idea is that people who have been solidly Democrats are going to take a fresh look at the race,” he predicted. “They are very concerned about the leadership they’ve been receiving.”
In addition to the ad blitz, Brooks said, Republican Jewish volunteers “are going to do massive amounts of phone calls to Jewish households, and we are going to have multiple days of our members and grassroots activists going door-to-door to help get the issues out. The issues we are talking about are the issues the non-Jewish community is talking about: Who’s best to fix a broken state? New Jersey is broken.”
The RJC will also emphasize Christie’s law enforcement experience as the United States attorney for New Jersey in the George W. Bush administration.
Christie, said Brooks, “understands the implications of 9/11, given the unique nature of the vulnerability New Jersey has with some of the terror cells and stuff like that, to ensure Jewish families are protected and safe.”
Neck and neck
The RJC’s push comes as Corzine and Independent candidate Chris Daggett continued cutting deeply into what was once Christie’s commanding lead in public opinion polls.
A Quinnipiac University survey scheduled for release on Oct. 14 shows Corzine trailing Christie by just one percentage point (actual numbers were not available at press time).
One month ago, Christie led Corzine by 10 points, 47 to 37 percent. Quinnipiac polling director Maurice Carroll told NJJN that Independent wild card Chris Daggett is damaging the Republican’s lead.
“Daggett has certainly made himself the focus as the thinking man’s alternative to Christie with his tax plan and his Star-Ledger endorsement,” said Carroll. “But Daggett will fade by Election Day, and to further complicate his problems, his name is over on the right side of the ballot with the various cats and dogs you can’t find.”
According to Carroll, “Christie’s problem is he doesn’t talk specifics. The political lesson he learned is ‘don’t spell things out,’ and I don’t know if that’s a smart lesson or not.”
An Oct. 1 Monmouth University poll showed Daggett “pulling some Christie support,” said its director, Patrick Murphy. The Monmouth poll has Christie leading Corzine 43 to 40 percent, with 8 percent for Daggett.
“At the beginning, Christie was way ahead on a hope and a prayer,” said Murphy. “But the dynamics in the summer are not the same as in the fall. Voters ask a different set of questions. In the summer they say, ‘I’m not happy with the incumbent.’ In September and October, they’ll say, ‘Wait a minute. Before I push that button for Christie, tell me again what he’s going to do.’ When they are searching for that answer, they are coming up blank.”
In recent ads Christie has sought to counter criticism that he lacks specifics, listing in one “exactly” what he intends to do: “cut spending,” “end special interest giveaways,” “restore property tax rebates,” “create jobs,” and make sure “all our children get the quality education they deserve.”
In its endorsement of Daggett, however, the Star-Ledger said only the Independent has “produced anything close to a coherent plan to cut property taxes.”
According to Murphy, Daggett is picking up Republican support because of his willingness to focus on property tax issues. In addition, negative attacks from the Corzine campaign “are helping to undermine Christie’s image.”
“We don’t know what Daggett’s staying power is because he doesn’t have the money and he doesn’t have a party operation that can get out the votes,” Murphy said. “But voters don’t like Corzine, and they are uncomfortable with Christie. What do those voters do on election day?”
As he surveyed the latest poll figures, a veteran Jewish Republican activist and blogger predicted that “Jon Corzine will defeat Chris Christie by a margin of between three to five points.”
Alan J. Steinberg of West Orange, who served as regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush, predicted that “Christie is likely to lose because he has no plan regarding local property taxes.”