Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s puzzling last-minute endorsement of Shavar Jeffries had the political class scratching its head. The endorsement, given on the day before the election, had virtually no chance of helping Jeffries — there was no time to campaign and voters’ minds had presumably been made up by the $4 million that had been spent to that point. But now, having picked the loser, it puts the top county officially at odds with the mayor of the state’s largest city and his county’s power base.
So how did Joe DiVincenzo get it so wrong? Why did the usually nimble county exec make such a maladroit and costly decision?
Apparently, Joe D made the decision on Monday because “The pro-Jeffries were convinced of win — it wasn’t posturing, they really believed it,” according to a reliable source, who is savvy in the ways of NJ politics.
Blame the polling.
Global Strategy Group, the pollster hired by Newark First, the Independent Expenditure effort supporting Jeffries, had consistently released polling showing the gap to be closing, including a story two weeks ago showing Baraka up 42-30.
Then, just a week ago, they released their final poll, showing an even narrower 38-34 gap. That poll made little sense to anyone with any election experience – even if Jeffries had taken four points from Baraka and added them to his column, there should not have been the same large number of undecideds (28%) after all that time and messaging.
It’s one thing to release polling data that favors your client in hopes of stirring up support. It’s another thing to believe your own sales pitch.