There are a few things strategists from both sides agree on already about today’s election:
1. The race for Governor is too close to call. Each sides remains optimistic, but Democrats won’t be shocked if Republican Christopher Christie ends the day as governor-elect, and Republicans won’t be terribly surprised if Democrat Jon Corzine wins re-election. Corzine is an unpopular governor running in bad economic times, but he has spent enough of his own money driving up Christie’s negatives to close the gap. Democrats knew four months ago that Corzine could not win re-election, but that he could cause Christie to lose. New Jersey is perhaps the most Democratic state in the nation – Republicans haven’t won here since 1997 (since then, 49 other states have had GOP statewide victories – and Corzine has spent enough to drive Christie’s negatives way up. Barack Obama made three trips to New Jersey – including one on Sunday – and Corzine’s Democratic base vote problem appears to be gone.
2. The presence of Lt. Governor candidates on the ballot for the first time turned out to be a non-event. It’s Election Day, and most voters have never heard of Loretta Weinberg or Kim Guadagno. In the end, call it even: Guadagno won a little-watched TV debate, and Weinberg was the deciding factor in The Record’s decision to endorse Corzine.
3. There will be little, if any, change in the State Assembly. All eight seats are up, but only two are seriously contested: Democratic Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam in District 1. The consensus among insiders is a split – Albano and Republican Michael Donohue win – but it could easily be a sweep by Republicans (if Christie builds up huge pluralities against Corzine in Cape May) or by Democrats, who have outspend the GOP 3-1. If there are any upsets, look at Districts 4, 22 and 36. But incumbents are clearly the favorites, and there is little doubt that Democrats will control the lower house next year.
4. There is an expectation that the $400 million open space bond referendum will be a casualty of bad economic times.
5. Republicans, Democrats concede, are the favorites in their bid to recapture control of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders. Democrats are also increasingly unenthusiastic about their chances of taking control of the Burlington Freeholder Board. Look for Atlantic to stay Republican and Salem to stay Democratic. In Bergen County, the GOP has a shot to oust Democratic Freeholder Vernon Walton; Democrats are worried about losing a seat or three in Cumberland.
6. Two incumbent County Clerks have the edge in tough re-election bids: Gloria Noto in Cumberland and Gilda Gill in Salem. Both are Republicans.
7. Best mayoral races in the state are in Gloucester Township, Parsippany, Edison and Hammonton: in Gloucester Township, GOP incumbent Cindy Rau-Hatton faces Democrat David Mayer, a former Assemblyman; in Parsippany, Democratic Mayor Michael Luther faces Republican Councilman Jamie Barberio; and in Edison, where Democrats ousted incumbent Jun Choi in the primary, Councilwoman Toni Ricigliano faces Republican Dennis Purpura, who has forged a coalition with Choi Democrats and won the endorsement of the Home News Tribune.
8. The key to Election ’09 will be the performance of independent Christopher Daggett. Daggett will get more votes that the number that separate Corzine and Christie, but neither side is certain who he has hurt more. Daggett won’t be governor, but his presence in the race could determine who is. Democrats and Republicans say Daggett gets less than 10%.