Lieutenant-Governor Debate: Guadagno a Clear Winner

I just returned to my home in West Orange from the Lieutenant- Governor debate at Monmouth University. Kim Guadagno was a clear winner.

Kim projected competence, knowledge of issues, and even more importantly, empathy. She has genuine charisma and star quality. Regardless of whether Chris Christie wins or loses in November, she will someday be a Republican candidate for Governor.

Christie Whitman was the New Jersey Republican woman star from the aristocracy. Kim Guadagno is the new New Jersey Republican woman star from the meritocracy.

Frank Esposito demonstrated mastery of issues, particularly on education. Like Chris Daggett, however, he is without populist personal appeal.

Loretta Weinberg is a formidable state senator, but she has one major fault: super excessive partisanship. When this negative quality is on display, Weinberg loses credibility. Two examples of this tonight stand out.

In responding to a question on property taxes, Weinberg first started reciting the tired litany of “eight years of George W. Bush” being the cause of all our problems, including property taxes.

It is one thing to blame the policies of George W. Bush for the recession. Serious economic students know that the current national economic situation also has roots in the Clinton administration decisions to expand subprime mortgages and refrain from regulating credit default swaps. Nevertheless, the current recession began on George W. Bush’s watch, and Democratic candidates are not acting unreasonably in blaming him for our present economic woes.

It is another matter altogether for Loretta Weinberg to attempt to blame George W. Bush for New Jersey’s skyrocketing property taxes. That partisan line of attack is ludicrous on its face.

The other major gaffe by Weinberg was her attempt to rationalize Jon Corzine’s negative commercial attacking Chris Christie for his automobile accident. This irrelevant commercial has backfired badly on the Governor, and Weinberg made the situation even worse by trying to justify a patently offensive campaign advertisement.

Three other thoughts came to mind while watching the debate.

1. Christie and Guadagno are in a stronger political position in blaming New Jersey’s current “crisis of affordability” on Corzine rather than the current economic recession.

It is true that New Jersey’s economy is in worse economic shape than neighboring states, and Christie and Guadagno are wise to emphasize that fact. Nevertheless, politically, Corzine can largely get away with blaming New Jersey’s economic woes on George W. Bush.

Corzine and Weinberg however cannot succeed in blaming Bush for New Jersey’s crisis of affordability. The property taxes and state taxes that are causing economic anguish to New Jerseyans have nothing to do with Bush – and the voters know this.

2. I agree with Chris Christie’s position on mandate free insurance policies, but politically, it has been a disaster for him with women independent voters. He needs to “change the subject” as quickly as possible when this issue arises in debate or otherwise.

Property tax would be the ideal issue to which to change the subject. The fact that Christie has not propounded a property tax platform, however, makes it almost impossible for him to do so.

The mammogram issue has become to the Christie campaign what the gun issue was to Chuck Haytaian’s 1994 U.S. Senate campaign – a distraction which hurts the candidate severely with women independent voters.

3. The Christie campaign should seriously consider having Kim Guadagno do a commercial on behalf of the Republican ticket, to be broadcast during the last week of the campaign. Her ability to project empathy with women voters attempting to meet the challenges of motherhood and career is superb. This would go a long way in bringing back women independent voters in support of the Christie-Guadagno ticket.

And for goodness sake, Christie campaign, once and for all, make Kim Guadagno available to appear on the NJN On the Record show. Her Lieutenant-Governor candidacy is the best decision Chris Christie has made in this campaign.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations.

Lieutenant-Governor Debate:  Guadagno a Clear Winner