Since his independent campaign went from being a curiosity to a legitimate factor in race for governor, Christopher Daggett has been dogged by the rumor that he is a stalking horse for Gov. Corzine – a willing accomplice to help an unpopular governor win reelection by sapping the anti-incumbent vote from Republican Chris Christie.
Former Republican Gov. Christie Whitman even seemed to lend the theory credence when she told Fox Business News that the Corzine camp was “urging people, quietly, to support Chris Daggett because, by doing that, they figure they’ll split the independent vote.”
Daggett suspects the conspiracy theory is peddled by the Christie campaign and the Republican establishment, which have spent the last several weeks criticizing Daggett in advertisements and campaign rhetoric.
“[Christie] sends all these Republicans like Christie Whitman to make people believe there’s some kind of conspiracy theory. It’s shameful,” said Daggett in a phone interview.
The conspiracy talk has found a home on 101.5FM, where morning drive time host Jim Gearhart today upped the pitch by asking Daggett to take a pledge not to accept a job in the Corzine administration if Corzine wins. Daggett refused, but also would not pledge not to take a job in the Christie administration. Gannett Trenton Bureau chief Bob Ingle, writing up a summary of the interview for his blog, said that Daggett’s answer “didn’t do anything to dissuade those who think Daggett is in the race to help Corzine by draining votes from Christie and will be rewarded for it.”
But Daggett said that his refusal to take the pledge was based on his principle that anyone asked to serve in any presidential or gubernatorial administration should “consider that regardless of party.”
The Corzine camp, for its part, denies doing anything to help Daggett.
“It’s not true. We’re not trying to support him or prop him up or anything like that,” said Corzine spokesman Sean Darcy.
And in a statement, Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella indicated that she was not suspicious of any untoward campaign coordination between Christie’s two rivals, and that “the only connection between Jon Corzine and Chris Daggett in this race is that they are both more than willing to raise taxes and tolls on already overtaxed New Jerseyans.”
Daggett today also challenged the widely held belief that his candidacy is hurting Christie more than Corzine, and said he’s tired of taking the blame for the disappearance of Christie’s mid-summer lead.
“The only person he has to blame is the one he sees in the mirror. Rather than blame me and a conspiracy theory, Republicans have to look in a mirror and say, wow, we’ve run a horrible campaign,” he said.
Daggett has done as well as 20% in recent polls, but results have been mixed. A Suffolk University poll released today, which included all 12 gubernatorial candidates, showed Daggett at only 7% (Daggett said that the poll’s methodology was off, since listening to 12 names being read over the phone was not similar to looking at them on a ballot).
A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll from earlier this month showed him at 17% when his name was mentioned, but only 4% of respondents volunteered his name as a response when it wasn’t (independent Gary Steele, a much more obscure gubernatorial candidate, garnered 12% when his name was mentioned in the FDU poll).
But Daggett – whose $1.1 million campaign has not commissioned a single poll of its own – said that, even though he’s touted surveys that showed him in the high double digits, he doesn’t believe that the polls are accurately reflecting the state of the race.
“I’ve said from the beginning that I don’t’ believe in polls,” he said. “I don’t use them. I don’t think they’re accurate. I don’t think they reflect the independent sentiment.”