Today's Fairleigh Dickinson University poll showed Governor Corzine's approval ratings taking a nosedive, but Democratic State Chairman Joseph Cryan argues, as he has over the last several months, that the public will come to realize that effective leadership requires making difficult and sometimes unpopular choices.
"My comment is the same: we're making tough choices. Republicans screwed up the economy, and we're dealing with it," said Cryan, a Democratic Assemblyman from Union County. "This is George Bush's fallout."
Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Christopher Christie, the former U.S. Attorney who was a Bush fundraiser in 2000, tried to cancel that argument out at a press conference last week, arguing that a comparison with neighboring states before the economy tanked demonstrated that New Jersey's economic woes were the result of seven years of Democratic leadership, not the global economic recession. Public jobs, he argued, provided the vast majority of job growth in New Jersey.
Cryan scoffed at that argument, saying that New Jersey had a lower unemployment rate than its neighbors and is the best positioned for recovery once the economy turns around.
"Herbert Hoover Bush and his pal Chris Christie. Let's knock it off. You're responsible for it," he said. "You would hope that a candidate for governor who was so aligned with Bush would at least have the stones to say it's Bush's economic legacy that we're all dealing with."
Christie consultant Michael DuHaime countered that New Jersey's recession started well before the national one.
"Democrats are pretty good at playing the blame game and pretty bad a governing," he said. "In many ways, New Jersey was behind every other state in the region during the post 9/11 period. Democrats had control of all aspects of state government and its policies — the high tax, high borrowing wall street policies that have driven us into a worse state than any of our neighbors."
DuHaime said that the FDU poll said just as much about Christie's strengths as a candidate as it did about Corzine's weaknesses, since Christie was the only Republican in the field who outpolled Corzine.
"Clearly you have a governor who's weakened. He spent $120 million over two campaigns, has 100% name ID and is in the low 30s in the ballot tests.. But I think it also says something about Chris," he said. "He's winning and the other Republicans are losing to Corzine, even in his weakened state. Even with a weakened governor, it still takes a special Republican to win in a state as Democrat-leaning as this."