Steve Lonegan gubernatorial campaign strategist Rick Shaftan said that the Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind poll released today showing rival Chris Christie leading Lonegan by 24 points in the Republican primary does not measure the impact of a negative news story on Christie.
“This poll was mostly done last week before the Inglesino story hit, the Jersey Guys thing, the fallout over the weekend and several pieces of mail that arrived on Saturday,” said Shaftan.
The poll of 561 likely Republican voters was conducted between May 26 and 30. The Associated Press broke the story about Christie confidante John Inglesino’s $3,000 a year job with state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville) on May 27. The job, which kept Inglesino in the state’s pension system after he lost reelection as a freeholder, ran counter to one of Christie’s campaign promises about ending part-time employees' pension benefits. Lonegan immediately seized the story, but perhaps its largest repercussion – the radio drubbing of Chrisitie by 101.5 fm’s “The Jersey Guys” – did not occur until the evening drive time on May 29.
Shaftan said that the outcome on the race tomorrow depends on turnout, but his interpretation of what that means counters conventional wisdom. While political experts told the Associated Press this weekend that Lonegan would benefit from a lower turnout, Shaftan said the opposite.
“Turnout is the key here. If turnout tops 400,000, we win. Under 300,000, we lose,” said Shaftan, who went on to argue that the experts quoted by the AP “think the most consistent primary voters are conservatives when in fact conservatives are the most fickle voters. The most consistent primary voters are party hacks. The high propensity voters are least likely to be conservatives.”
Christie Campaign Manager Bill Stepien naturally put more trust in the poll results.
"No amount of spin can hide the facts: this is further confirmation that more and more voters understand what Lonegan's income tax hike plan reallymeans for them – higher income taxes for 70% of families, higher incometaxes for 75% of seniors, and the elimination of the only property tax
relief New Jerseyans have come to rely upon," he said.