Since the gubernatorial primary ended and the general election began, incumbent Jon Corzine has outspent Republican nominee Chris Christie by a 10-1 margin on television ads.
Corzine has spent over $5.4 million on cable and network television in the New York and Philadelphia media markets since June with mostly negative ads, while Christie has spent a little over $540,000 solely in the Philadelphia market during the same period.
The figures, however, do not count spending by third party groups. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) has spent about $3 million in New Jersey — most of it since the June 2 primary. The Democratic Governors Association, which helped fund the Mid-Atlantic Leadership Fund’s attack ads against Christie before the primary, has not run any ads to help Corzine (or any other candidates) since then.
Radio ad buys are harder to track, and right now it’s impossible to tell exactly how much each campaign has spent on the internet. But with the next campaign finance reports not coming out until October, television ad buys are one way to keep tabs on campaign spending.
Christie campaign strategist Mike DuHaime noted that his candidate has maintained his high single-digit or low double-digit lead in the polls all summer long despite the disparity.
“How much does he have to spend to make a dent in this lead?” DuHaime said. “Millions and millions in negative ads seem to have not worked. They keep trying one after the next and the lead hasn’t changed much over the summer.”
But Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray – whose most recent poll shows Christie leading Corzine by 14% among likely voters – said that the commercials appear to be having the intended effect.
“They’re not to change the lead in the horse race. They’re to take an unknown quantity and start to increase –slowly but surely – negative views of that unknown quantity, in this case Chris Christie,” he said.
In Murray’s polls, the proportion of registered voters who view Christie unfavorably has nearly doubled in the last four months, reaching 30% this month from 16% in April. Those numbers won’t start to factor into the head-to-head match up numbers until October, he said.
The Christie campaign’s spending will almost certainly increase after Labor Day. They’re biding their time, since Christie, who accepts matching funds from the state, is capped at $10.9 million for the general election. Corzine, who is trying to raise more money than in previous races but is expected to pour at least $25 million of his own funds into his reelection effort, is not bound by that restraint.
“I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t spend up to $50 million of his own money—that’s assuming it’s on top of the $15 million he said he wanted to raise from outside sources,” said Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison.
Harrison said Christie’s decision to spend money only in the Philadelphia media market is significant, since it skips over Bergen County, which is expected to play the most important role in November.
Corzine spokesman Sean Darcy argued that the polls actually are tightening.
“The only poll results that matter are the ones with all three candidates,” he said.
While the latest Quinnipiac poll had Corzine trailing Christie by 9% in a two-way race, the lead shrunk to 6% when independent Christopher Daggett – who qualified for matching funds and will have a significant amount of money to spend — was factored in.
“The more people learn about Christie the more they dislike him. The most recent revelations that he was plotting his run for governor with Karl Rove while still US Attorney is just the latest example of questionable judgment by Christie, as evidenced by the call for an investigation,” Darcy said. “Governor Corzine’s message of fiscal responsibility and the work he has done to keep New Jersey working is starting to resonate with New Jersey voters.”