"I'm going to take this guy out in the debate."
–Steve Lonegan pre-debate hype, May 12, 2009
Like many of Steve Lonegan's promises, his pledge to "take out" Chris Christie in last night's GOP gubernatorial debate fell very short.
Indeed, many observers who watched with me in the NJN Studios, both Christie and Lonegan partisans, were impressed with the level of detail, and the level of rational discussion of the participants.
But the way this race has shaped up, Lonegan needed to score a heavy blow to Christie, but failed to come close to delivering it, despite his promise to do so.
In fact, Christie successfully put Lonegan on the defensive throughout the debate with simple, easy-to-understand criticisms of Lonegan's tax plan, which would raise income tax rates for 70% of NJ taxpayers. Lonegan was forced to defend it with boring marginal rate statistics, and obscure references to political philosophies of collectivism and income redistribution.
Lonegan's failed promise to take out Christie is symptomatic of his campaign, which has foolishly exaggerated his own record, and ineptly hurt his own credibility by outright lying about his opponent.
A few examples – Lonegan constantly hypes that he is an electoral "winner," even when he lost races for County Executive, State Senate, and Governor. In fact, every race he ever entered outside Bogota he lost. Why would you talk about your electoral record when it's so bad?
He lied about Chris's position on abortion, early enough that the Christie campaign had plenty of time to answer the charge with facts proving otherwise. Again, Lonegan led with his chin, allowing Christie to explain his own position, and hurt Lonegan's credibility in the process.
It is comical that Lonegan's only hope for the nomination appears to be Jon Corzine and the Democrats stepping in and helping him defeat Christie.
How ironic indeed for the man claiming to be the GOP's strongest candidate against the Governor.