Cryan predicts drop in Corzine approvals

Can't wait to see what tomorrow's Quinnipiac poll will look like? Political observers say not to count on anything too exciting.

Gov. Jon Corzine's fiscal restructuring plan will remain unpopular. Corzine's approval rating will likely take a dip, although not a huge one. And Sen. Frank Lautenberg's numbers will probably remain somewhat anemic but not too threatening.

The one thing that's close to certain is that there won't be a bump in the Governor's numbers.

"You don't have to be James Carville to figure that out," said Assemblyman Joe Cryan, who chairs the state Democratic Party. "Without knowing it, I assume his numbers will have dipped. I assume that people won't like the plan because the press discussion, in all candor, has been on one point and not on all four."

But, Cryan said, the public will likely give Corzine credit for trying to "deliver a tough message."

Republican State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, who's running for U.S. Senate, said that he expects Governor's approval ratings would drop, but wouldn't venture to guess a specific number. He also said that opposition to the toll-hike plan would likely solidify. The problem, he said, is that Corzine has done too little to reign in spending.

"The problem is not taxes, the problem is not tolls – the problem is spending. We've got to stop spending," he said.

Last month, a Monmouth University poll put Governor Corzine approval rating in the negative for the first time, with 40% approving and 44% disapproving of his job performance. The last Quinnipiac poll, taken in December, showed Corzine with a barely right-side-up 46% approval rating, with 43% of respondents disapproving.

Expect Corzine's approval rating to be upside down, experts say, but not as low as the toll plan's.

Montclair State University Professor Brigid Harrison said that Corzine will likely see his approval rating drop from the low 40s to the mid-to-high 30s — all because of his fiscal restructuring plan.

"I think this is partly due to the negative media coverage that has been surrounding his dog and pony show, or whatever you want to call it. His town meetings," she said.

Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray said that the public support for the toll plan – which his own poll put at 15% — and Gov. Corzine's approval rating, could both drop slightly.

"It's definitely not going to be better than the last poll. The question is how much worse," he said. "If it's pretty much the same, it just means the Governor's road show so far has been a wash. If it's a lot worse the road show has backfired."

Ingrid Reed, the director of the Eagleton Institute's New Jersey project, said that the toll plan's negatives probably won't shave too many points off Corzine.

"I think people give him a lot of points for trying," she said.

While Lautenberg's opposition to the toll plan ought to neutralize the issue for his upcoming reelection bid, he's not likely to see a bump because of it. While the move drew the ire of Gov. Corzine, the general public probably hasn't taken much note.

"That was his insurance against it when the campaign really gets under way," said Murray.

The last Quinnipiac poll put Lautenberg's approval at 40% and his disapproval at 30%. Observers and politicians said they don't expect to see much of a change.

"I think people still judge him on his outstanding work on the U.S. Senator. Do I think he'll get a boost form it? No," said Cryan. "I think people focus on the work of the Senate and not so much what his local views are."

But Harrison wondered whether Lautenberg would have been better off keeping away from the issue entirely.

"My thinking on this is that… Democrats who are running for federal office should not make state politics part of their policy position, simply because whenever it has happened before it's backfired," she said.

Pennacchio said that he doesn't expect Lautenberg's numbers to fall precipitously, in part because he doesn't think he's gotten out in front of enough issues.

"Then again, people are so cynical with the whole system that everyone's numbers could going down."

Cryan predicts drop in Corzine approvals