Spinning back at news accounts of Chris Christie’s spending on hotel rooms while U.S. Attorney, Republicans today pointed to the state’s latest unemployment report.
“I think it’s a silly distraction from what people really care about, like the unemployment report that says New Jersey hemorrhaged jobs,” said Republican State Chairman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), who is also an assemblyman.
According to numbers released this morning by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the state’s unemployment rate ticked up a bit to match the national rate of 9.8%. The state lost 12,000 private sector jobs that month, more than canceling out the touted 5,600 private sector job gain in July and 2,900 gain in August (the July gain had been revised down from 12,000).
“That’s what we care about. Not FOIA requests on travel expenses,” said Webber.
The hotel story was based on documents obtained by the Corzine campaign through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove) downplayed the hotel expense story, arguing that Christie needed to stay somewhere (even though he went above the Justice Department’s spending limits on 14 out of the 16 trips he took in 2008, according to the AP).
“If the guy couldn’t get a hotel and asked for the waiver when he was US Attorney, what should he do, sleep in a park?,” he said. ‘If his bosses at DOJ thought it was appropriate, it was appropriate.”
The hotel story broke the night before Quinnipiac released a poll showing the race between Christie and Governor Corzine in a stastistical dead heat, with independent Christopher Daggett pulling 14%.
Instead of looking at the horse race numbers, Republicans prefer to note that Gov. Corzine’s approval and favorable ratings remain mired in the high 30s or low 40s.
O’Toole, for his part, said it was unrealistic to expect Christie to hold a double digit lead this late in the campaign.
“I’m kind of astonished that people are surprised the polls have closed. What did they expect was going to happen?” he said. “During the summer, when Chris didn’t spend a nickel, Corzine spent upwards of $8 to $10 million just blasting away. Obviously the negative has taken some toll, but at the end of the day Chris has taken the lead.”
Meanwhile, both Republicans say they’re not going to let die the story about Corzine Deputy Chief of Staff Mark Matzen’s email to cabinet members asking them to come up with events to show that “the economic policies of Governor Corzine are working.”
“In context this is an email that demonstrates the Corzine administration is not being truthful about its record, and it’s manipulating government offices to hide its record,” said Webber.