- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine appears to be losing support in his bid for a second term against Republican challenger Chris Christie, despite a monthlong barrage of Democratic attack ads against the former U.S. attorney, several independent polls show.

Polls last month had shown that the race for governor was tightening slightly as Mr. Corzine, who is self-financing much of his campaign, unleashed a wave of TV ads accusing Mr. Christie of giving no-bid legal-services contracts to friends and former George W. Bush administration officials, and neglecting to report interest income from a $46,000 personal loan he made to a subordinate in the U.S. attorney’s office who has since resigned.

But a Quinnipiac University poll reported Tuesday that Mr. Corzine was now trailing by 10 percentage points (47 percent to 37 percent), with 9 percent for independent candidate Christopher Daggett. An Aug. 11 Quinnipiac poll showed Mr. Christie leading by just six percentage points.

The latest poll also found that 56 percent of those who saw the Corzine ads that criticized Mr. Christie for awarding contracts to people with ties to Mr. Bush considered them unfair, while 36 percent said they raised a legitimate issue. The poll surveyed 1,612 likely voters from Aug. 25-30 with a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

Voters also called Mr. Corzine’s attacks on Mr. Christie’s loan to a deputy in the U.S. Attorney’s Office unfair by 49 percent to 43 percent, though split 47 percent-47 percent on Mr. Christie’s ads blaming the governor for the state’s poor economy and high unemployment.

“Just about everyone has seen Gov. Jon Corzine’s TV ads knocking Christopher Christie’s ties to the Bush team, but most question whether it’s a legitimate issue. ‘Unfair,’ they say,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“Christie wins on many questions, and he is pulling away from Corzine in a three-way matchup, with a double-digit lead,” Mr. Carroll said in his report on the poll results.

However, a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll showed Mr. Christie narrowly leading by 47 percent to 42 percent in a two-way race. The five-percentage-point lead was down from a previous six-percentage point lead in an earlier poll. Yet, nearly half the voters surveyed - 49 percent - said New Jersey was on the wrong track versus 38 percent who said it was moving in the right direction. The poll surveyed 715 likely voters from Aug. 24-30 with a margin of error of four percentage points.

But a Rasmussen poll released Friday also showed Mr. Christie leading by double-digits.

“Jon Corzine’s negative attacks are backfiring. Despite outspending our campaign 11-1 over the summer and flooding the airwaves with negative, misleading attacks, Jon Corzine still trails Chris by 11 points,” the Christie campaign said.

It was the Fairleigh Dickinson poll, however, that Democrats pointed to suggesting the race was tightening.

That poll “shows the governor’s message is beginning to resonate with voters,” said Emily DeRose, spokeswoman for the Democratic Governors Association.

“New Jersey residents will have a very clear choice in November between the governor, who is working to get the state back on the right financial track, and a candidate that has never created a job and has no plans to do so,” Ms. DeRose said in an e-mail to The Washington Times.

Mr. Christie is riding a tide of popularity as a crime-fighting former U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey who has won scores of convictions of corrupt state, county and local government officials over his seven-year tenure. The office he left in December to run for governor continued his crusade this year, announcing 44 more arrests in July, including mayors and other public officials - fueling a wave of renewed anger among voters who largely blame the Democrats for the state’s widespread corruption.

Mr. Corzine is fighting an uphill battle in a state battered by a deep recession, high property taxes, and public anger over tax increases he enacted to deal with a growing budget deficit.

“Chris is leading this race because he offers solutions to struggling New Jerseyans while Jon Corzine has tried to mask his miserable record with even more of his angry, partisan rhetoric,” Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien said Tuesday.

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