The third-party effect in New Jersey
EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ-- Going into Tuesday’s elections, Democrats were far more confident about their chances in New Jersey than in Virginia. One reason political operatives at both the White House and the Democratic Governors Association thought that Gov. Jon Corzine might manage reelection was the presence of third-party candidate Chris Daggett. The thinking was that Daggett would split the anti-Corzine vote with Republican Chris Christie and let Corzine sneak in with substantially less than 50 percent of the vote.
What went wrong with this theory?
The Democrats’ expectation and hope was that Daggett could hold onto at least 10 percent of the vote. One Democratic strategist told me before the election that in that circumstance, Corzine would likely win with around 46 percent of the vote. In fact, Daggett ended up with only 5.8 percent of the vote, not enough to save Corzine. The latest returns show Christie winning with 48.8 percent of the vote to Corzine’s 44.5 percent.
In the weeks leading up to the election, different polls offered quite different assessments as to whether Daggett, a political moderate, would draw more votes from Corzine or from Christie. Corzine strategists I spoke with here last night said that Daggett’s core vote came more from Corzine, but that the voters Daggett added and then lost in the course of the campaign were drawn from Christie. That’s why Corzine needed a much higher Daggett vote. In the end, Daggett hurt rather than helped Corzine. According to the exit poll, nearly half of Daggett’s voters would probably have skipped the election if he hadn’t been on ballot. Among those who had a preference, Dagget drew roughly 3 votes from Corzine for every 2 he took from Christie.
On the other hand, when Daggett’s share rose as high as 14 percent in some of the pre-election polls, he was drawing more votes from Christie than from Corzine. That’s because many of the votes he added on were anti-Corzine voters who had become disillusioned with Christie, especially after the Corzine camp’s fierce attacks on the Republican.
One Corzine strategist gave credit to Christie’s advisors for launching attacks on Daggett towards the end of the campaign. The Christie folks realized they need to switch more of the anti-Corzine vote to their column -- and that is exactly what they did.
| November 4, 2009; 3:57 PM ET
Categories: Dionne | Tags: E.J. Dionne
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