Gov. Jon Corzine is outspending his Republican opponent by a 3-1 margin in his bid for re-election to a second term, but he's still spending less than he did when he ran four years ago.
Maurice Carroll, who runs the Quinnipiac University poll, doesn't read much into that.
"Whatever they tell him he'll have to spend, he'll spend. Which I guess is good for the economy. It pays for a lot of consultants, television stations are getting rich," he said.
Corzine has raised and spend $16.8 million so far – a bit down from the $20.1 million he raised and $18.6 million he spent as of the same point in his last campaign.
That's complicated by one key difference. In a late September, 2005 Quinnipiac poll, Corzine led Douglas Forrester by four points. Now, in the latest Quinnipiac poll, he trails Republican Christopher Christie by four.
But Corzine faced an opponent with more cash in Forrester, a wealthy businessman who opted not to take part in the public financing program and ultimately spent almost $20 million of his own money in the general election. By contrast, Christie's spending is capped at $10.9 million because he's taking part in the public financing program.
Carroll's polls show Corzine succeeding in tarnishing Christie's image, but Corzine's approval and favorability ratings have remained mired in the 38%-42% range. He doesn't think that Corzine is concerned with boosting those numbers.
"It's just like with all you reporters. The only number he's really interested in is the basic head to head. And in that, Corzine's doing better than he has in quite a while," Carroll said.
Washington, DC-based political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said he was surprised that Corzine was not spending more than he did in previous races, since he's been behind in 44 out of the last 45 polls independent public opinion polls.
"Given all the numbers we were throwing around about how much Corzine would spend, having spent less than four years ago is something of a surprise," he said.
A July New York Times story said that Corzine, facing a "steep decline" in his net worth from $400 million to possibly $150 million, planned to spend less of his own money on this race – perhaps raising as much as $15 million from donors and spending $25 million of his own. That has not happened. Of the $16.8 million, $15.6 is from his own pocket, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
Rothenberg doubted that Corzine could boost his favorable or approval ratings even if he tried. Instead, he said, Corzine's plan is to bring down Christie's favorables and, with the unintentional help of independent Christopher Daggett pulling votes from Christie, squeak by in a three man race.
"I'm only being half sarcastic when I say maybe Corzine ought to spend money on behalf of Daggett," he said.
The Corzine camp, for its part, said that Corzine "will have more than enough resources to get his message out for Election Day."
Sean Darcy, a spokesman for Corzine, disputes that Christie is being substantially outspent.
"Christie's contention that this race is tight because of advertising ignores the fact that the [Republican Governors Association] has been pouring millions of dollars into New Jersey since before the primary to distort the Governor's record," he said. "The fact is that New Jersey residents are seeing what the people of Morris County saw when they had the opportunity to fire Christie from his position as Freeholder and immediately jumped on it."
The Republican Governor's Association has invested $4-6 million in New Jersey, depending on who you ask. One breakdown pegged their spending at just under $5 million on broadcast and just over $1 million on cable. Although the Democratic Governors Association has not spent any money here since they went after Christie during the Republican primary, other groups aligned with Corzine have spent money. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), which endorsed Corzine, just made a $500,000 ad buy, according to one source.