It’s All About Corzine

Conventional wisdom is that American elections are about competing ideas from two candidates. In reality that is not what most campaigns are about—and certainly not this year’s gubernatorial race between Democrat Jon Corzine and his Republican opponent, Chris Christie.

Illustration by Chris Gash.

No, the race for New Jersey governor is really a referendum on our incumbent, who has plenty to live down. Christie is going to blast Corzine for everything that’s wrong with New Jersey’s economy.  He is going to say that Corzine is responsible for the loss of thousands of jobs and that the business climate has gotten worse under Corzine’s watch. He is going to say that homeowners can’t afford to stay in the state because of out-of-control property taxes.

Corzine also has to live with his promise as a gubernatorial candidate four years ago that he would increase the property-tax rebate by 10 percent every year over his four-year term. Further, he has to defend his recent deal with the Communications Workers of America, which averted massive layoffs among the thousands of state workers that the union represents.

In his own defense, Corzine will tell us it’s good for New Jersey that he is friends with a Democratic White House that is prepared to send hundreds of millions—if not billions—of dollars into our state to give a jolt to our lagging economy. Corzine will say Christie is tied at the hip to George Bush and Dick Cheney—but that argument is getting old. Corzine will talk about Christie’s positions on gun control and abortion, but in these sore economic times, I’m not sure that matters much.

Of course, we haven’t heard much to date from candidate Christie as to how he would balance the state budget, cut taxes as promised, reduce state spending, and make sure everyone gets a property-tax rebate. The voters know that Christie is a hard-nosed, in-your-face crime fighter, who as a prosecutor put away loads of crooked politicians. But fighting corruption isn’t going to get New Jersey’s economy back on track or get anyone a job or health benefits, or repair a depleted 401k.

With the constant attacks on his record coming from Christie, Corzine is going to have to realize quickly that he must stand up for his economic policies. He can’t blame New Jersey’s troubles on the larger recession, even though there is a lot of truth to that argument.

Campaigns are not about shades of gray.  They are about black and white, good and evil. The status quo or change.

Chris Christie knows that. Ironically, he will position himself Obama-like as the candidate of change. Corzine has no such option. He cannot avoid representing the status quo. And that’s what this election is really about.
What do you think will be the outcome? Write me at [email protected]

Steve Adubato, PhD. is an Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and a media analyst and columnist for MSNBC.com, who also appears regularly on CBS 2. He is the author of the book Make the Connection, as well as his newest book What Were They Thinking?, which examines highly publicized and often controversial public relations and media mishaps. For more information, log on to stand-deliver.com.

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