Republican Christopher Christie has a 12 point lead, 53%-41%, over Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released early this morning. Christie's lead has grown from 50%-40%, where a Quinnipiac poll had him just one month ago. In a three-way matchup, Christie's lead drops to nine points, 47%-38%, with independent Christopher Daggett, a former state Environmental Protection Commissioner, at 8%.
Corzine has upside-down favorables/unfavorables of 34%-58%, and an upside-down job approval rating of 33%-60% — his worst since entering public office in 2000. Christie’s favorable rating is at 39%-20%.
"Good news for Christopher Christie: As voters focus on the campaign, he increases his lead slightly in the match-up against Corzine," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Good news for Gov. Jon Corzine: President Barack Obama is coming in and Obama's job numbers among New Jersey voters are good."
On one of Gov. Jon Corzine's top criticisms of Christie – his ties to former President George W. Bush – 77% of voters think Corzine should focus on state issues; just 10% of voters think it is a fair criticism of Christie, who worked on the first Bush campaign and then was the President's pick to serve as the state's top prosecutor. Among Independents, 83% say Corzine should focus on the issues.
Christie leads among Independents by a solid 64%-28% margin. That lead shrinks to 54%-24% with Daggett in the race. Daggett, who qualified last week for state matching funds and will have at least $1 million to spend on his campaign, gets 13% of the Independent vote, 6% of the Democratic vote, and 4% of the Republican vote. He is still virtually unknown, with 92% of state voters not knowing who he is.
"Politicians love to ponder who a third candidate hurts. Christopher Daggett helps Corzine a little. But virtually nobody knows him. Let's see what happens if his campaign starts to attract attention beyond the politics groupies," Carroll said.
By a wide margin, voters think Christie (50%-36%) would do a better job than Corzine at handling the state budget.
On Christie's claim that Corzine hasn't kept his campaign promises, 45% of voters say it is a fair criticism, while 44% blame the economic downturn.
Voters, 54%-30%, have more confidence in Christie's ability to clean up corruption.
More than half the voters (57%) say that Christie's experience as the U.S. Attorney prepares him to serve as Governor, while 30% say it has not. Among Independents, it is at 62% yes and 28% no.
Most New Jerseyans (58%) say that Corzine's background as head of a major Wall Street investment banking firm has made no difference in his performance as Governor. 20% say his experience has made him a better Governor, and 19% say it has made him worse.
When Corzine finances his own campaign, 46% of voters believe it makes him "free from being beholden to lobbyists and other special interests," but 44% view it as an unfair advantage. Democrats seem to back Corzine's self-funding, while GOP voters oppose it. Among Independents, 55% say self-funding campaigns is an unfair advantage.
An internal poll conducted for the Corzine campaign by The Mellman Group has Christie running four points ahead of the Governor, 42%-38%, with 6% for Daggett.