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The Most Important Number in Politics Today

New Jersey Independent candidate Chris Daggett is on the rise in the governor's race. AP Photo by Mel Evans


That's the percentage of the vote that Chris Daggett, the independent candidate for governor in New Jersey, received in the latest polling on the race by Quinnipiac University.

The rise of Daggett has emerged as most compelling and important storyline in the final weeks of what has been a bruising contest between Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie (R).

While we don't think -- as NBC's "First Read" postulated this morning -- that Daggett can win the race, it has become increasingly clear that his performance on election day will almost certainly determine whether Christie or Corzine wins.

Daggett, according to the Quinnipiac poll, has rapidly emerged as the landing place for voters who have decided they simply cannot bring themselves to vote for either Corzine or Christie.

That reality is born out by the fact that while roughly three-quarters of New Jersey voters (73 percent) don't know enough about Daggett to offer an opinion, he is polling in the mid-teens in the ballot test -- and even higher among the critically important independent voting bloc where he is winning 20 percent of the vote.

While Democrats insist that Daggett pulls equally from Corzine and Christie, it's clear that the Independent candidate's rise has cut more deeply into the Republican as Daggett is now seen as a viable alternative for voters who refuse to cast a ballot for the incumbent.

The Q poll bears out that sentiment. Asked who their second choice candidate would be, likely Daggett voters went for Christie over Corzine 40 percent to 33 percent -- not a huge margin but enough in a race that is expected to be extremely close.

The need to peel voters off of Daggett is why the Republican Governors Association is now running radio ads in New Jersey trying to link the independent candidate to the unpopular governor. "A vote for Chris Daggett is a vote for Jon Corzine," said RGA communications director Mike Schrimpf. "This November, New Jerseyans will have more than 10 choices on the ballot, but there are only two who can win: Chris Christie and Jon Corzine."

Can Daggett withstand the increased level of scrutiny from Republicans? Can he buck the typical trend for third party candidates who tend to lose vote share as election day nears and it becomes clear they simply can't win? And, does Corzine -- whether overtly or behind-the-scenes -- do anything to prop up Daggett to ensure that he remains viable all the way until Nov. 3?

The answers to these questions will almost certainly determine whether Jon Corzine wins a second term or whether Republicans (finally) score a victory a statewide race in New Jersey in less than a month's time.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 14, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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I can't wait for the day to come when more independents start running in more races. It's the independents in these races that keep the candidates honest. There is nothing more honorable than being an independent in an election.

New Political Age:

Posted by: nomdalen | October 19, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the fine post by ceflynline re: independence party, especially the form it took with the election of Jesse Ventura in Minnesota.

Ventura himself was not at all a good manager; he was simply about his own self-satisfaction. That said, I would argue that he put together the best cabinet the state has seen (with perhaps the exception of the Public Service Commissioner). He drew from the right, the left, and the center in very creative ways, and then allowed them to interact to accomplish goals. (Actually, he probably was so uninterrested in governing that he was happy that someone else was doing the work.)

While I am "a prairie populist" in the old sense of that word -- distrustful of coroporate interests and their impact on our midwestern way of life -- I think the kind of balance achieved in Minnesota was positive. IF, if, we would have had a governor who wanted to govern, I believe we could have been a success story.

But Ventura, followed by Tim Pawlenty, have seen two maniacal egos who prefered their own good to the welfare of the people of the state.

If Daggett can avoid the ego-centrism of being a "party of one," he could be a positive factor as governor. If he gets lost in his own press clippings, New Jersey would be in for a wild ride.

Posted by: prairiepopulist | October 15, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

ceflynline doesn't post often, but when s/he does, it's choice.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | October 15, 2009 6:43 AM | Report abuse

no one says what you say,
the way you say it.

I like that.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 14, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Great post!

In the words of Morpheus: "He's beginning to believe."

That's the critical matter for a 3rd party candidate. Voters in NJ are in a pox on their houses mood, but the main parties will claim a vote for Daggett is a wasted vote. My guess is that if weakly affiliated voters think Daggett might be able to win, he could double that 14%. Once Dagget's in the 20s, it's anyone's game.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | October 14, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

NJ is right to be proud of their schools. No one I know in Jersey sends their kids to private schools. If you cast your eyes over to Deleware you see what your non-tax dollars buy you: crumby public schools. Everyone I know who lives in Deleware sends their kids to private school -- but they love the low taxes. Let the poorer people go to bad public schools.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | October 14, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

No, Washington & Congress do NOT get it! Americans are hurting and taxed enough already, we can't afford MORE taxes on healthcare insurance too.


speak for yourself. I don't see a lot of tax pain, I do see a lot of job insecurity pain.

A million Americans enter bankruptcy every year as a result of health care costs. Anything that reduced that risk would be a far greater win than any alleged taxation increase could be a loss.

This is just Reaganite teabagger crap.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 14, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

New Jersey has one of the best Public Education Systems in the nation,expensive? Yes. It most likely has way too many local units,and layers of goverment,expensive?Yes.Does New Jersey have corruption?Yes,no more then eight years of the Bush Adminstration,or surrounding states.
While Cozine is no blockbuster of a Govenor,he can add up two columns of numbers;Revenues-Outlays,and he has traveled all over the state explaining these numbers to audiences who love the benefits of goverment,but are unwilling to pay for it.
Mr Daggett could be a fluke and sneak in a win,but if he does,being Ringmaster at the Trenton Circus will not be such an easy job. He will be lucky if he can get them to turn the clocks ahead in the springtime.
But for all its faults,most people in New Jersey can understand that Mr Chistie's claims that he will increase tax rebates for property owners,while cutting taxes,is the same old Republican Baloney,slice it thick,or slice it thin.
His numbers do not add up,his so called plans and unknown reforms do not begin to solve the problem.It sounds like he will appear in Trenton,and perform the miracle of the "Fishes and Loafs" to feed everyone in New Jersey,but it will be "All You Can Eat,for Free"
Now eating,thats one subject he has a PHD in, he is an expert at that ,he's always stuffing that Pie Hole of his with food,24/7 in fact.
If he wins,the taxpayers of New Jersey will be faced with an additional new expense,the Govenors Mansion will have to be moved to the old Zeppelin Hanger at Lakehurst N.A.S.

Posted by: jeromejmarkiewicz | October 14, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The Jesse Ventura question:

While Ross Perot was riding his wave on his plenitude of filp charts, JV got himself elected Governor as an American reform candidate. For that one hopeful moment it seemed that a REAL third party, one with candidates at many or most levels, might be arising. Then the party lost focus, and in 2000 the Republicans bought it and gave it to Buchanan with the proviso that Buchanan NOT use it to keep Bush from being elected. That mostly removed that party from meaningful existence.

Now, in a time that the GOP is hell bent on making i6self stand in a corner and shrink, could the rise of a Daggett, even in NJ, where the bizarre is the fundamental essence of day to day politics, be the first fruits of the rise of an alternative party to the GOP?

Probably NOT, since Daggett doesn't seem to be anything but an independent fortuitous enough to fall into a race where everyone is mad (British usage)enough and mad (American usage) enough to vote him in.

WHEN he gets in, sans party and therefore sans Party support in filling appointive offices, providing leadership in the legislature, and providing a platform on which to base an administration, he will just demonstrate the fallacy of voting for independents (small i) and/or Independents (big I).

Parties serve a purpose. When Parties forget that, and instead seek to serve a Party, they should get replaced. The Republicans lost their real sense of purpose under Nixon, and became a Party serving itself, rather than a party serving its members. It could still win elections, but its purpose, having become TO WIN ELECTIONS made it susceptible to going for particularly temporary effects on polls, and not on long term thought for its constituents.

Thus the PARTY, serving the Party' leadership's perception of its interests, picked an Armageddon over Health care, which they must certainly have known at te time they would lose, BECAUSE it might give them some temporary advantage in one poll or another.

Now the Republican Party has frozen itself out of the real and meaningful part of the process of making Universal Health care available, to the point where the actual committee that writes the actual bill, the reconcilliation committee, might have just one Republican on it and SHE will be the maverick.

They will get yet another unsinkable system, like Social Security, that becomes a fundamental part of most people's lives that they refue to consider giving up, and for the next century or so what is left of the Party of Reagan and Bush can fight to over turn it.

IFF they actually stay a Party for that long.

Posted by: ceflynline | October 14, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

A solid, informative post, CC.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 14, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I have yet to hear anything but GOP Talking Points from Christie. He doesn't have a clue. He is trying to win on Corzine's unpopularity. We americans are always whining. I guess NONE of this is OUR fault. We are too lazy to do the homework and figure out the real problems. We continue to ask for tax cuts and the GOP will give them to you while taking away jobs, increasing surcharges, fees and sales taxes. You just don't get it. Corzine is doing the hard stuff for the long term. Vote for Christie and vote for Bush all over again. Do we ever learn. This guy has NO substance - just talking points. AND he is too Fat and I don't want my tax money paying for his health and his "dining out"!

Posted by: Julescator | October 14, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

New Jersey adopted the Hugo Chavez model of government long before Venezuela did. There are far too many deadbeats and corrupt politicos milking the system here to foster change, regardless of who gets elected. In the end, the number of state employees who stand around the side of the road, watching a single guy fill a pothole, still outnumbers the poor schmucks paying 7% income tax and $12,000 year property tax on a modest single family home to keep the socialist system afloat.

Posted by: NJTom | October 14, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

No, Washington & Congress do NOT get it! Americans are hurting and taxed enough already, we can't afford MORE taxes on healthcare insurance too. Of course, I don't want to see Corzine to win, so even Daggett would be better than that. As Chuck Todd said, stranger things have happened, isn't that right, Governor Ventura? Governor Schwarzenegger?

Posted by: JakeD | October 14, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

New Jersey's largest newspaper, the Newark Star-Ledger, endorsed Daggett this week. If he starts getting more Editorial endorsements and especially if he gets an endorsement from either the New York Times or Philadelphia Inquirer, or both, Daggett is highly unlikely to fade and may gain momentum. In fact he may gain to the point that he challenges Christie for 2nd place. Corzine probably has a solid 40% or possibly more. The more strength Daggett gets from disaffected Democrats and Independents, the more it injures Christie. My brother lives in South Jersey and has told me that Daggett is getting people's attention. He seems to think a substantial part of the vote is anti-Corzine, but not Republican or pro-Christie. The more Daggett is seen as viable, the larger proportion he gets of the non-Republican anti-Corzine vote, which is a larger share of the vote than is the base Republican, Christie vote.

Initially it appeared as though Daggett was more likely to hurt Corzine as he is getting very little Republican support as Christie is holding Republicans. But Daggett may in the end actually WIN the Independent vote and get the vote of the majority of those disaffected Democrats who are completely unavailable to Corzine if he comes to be viewed as viable by more voters. The Republican share of the electorate in NJ has shrunk to such a level that Christie could carry 90% of the Republican vote and still finish 3rd if he cannot win the Independent vote and make inroads into the disaffected Democrats.

Chris is correct that the Independent vote is a big key here, but also the disaffected Democrats who will oppose Corzine are important. Basically there is at least 55% of the vote that is unavailable to Corzine, but Corzine has a rock-solid 40% base. So anything above 12% for Daggett and Corzine can win. If Daggett goes well above 15% that really makes it dicey for Christie. If Daggett gets 20% or more on Election Day, then Corzine gets reelected.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 14, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't Washington & Congress get it .... We're fed up with your do-nothing or only do what benefits themselves type of Government. We (tax payers) pay your wages & put you in office. We don't think you're god, actually we think most of you are slobs. Either change or we vote you out of office. We need new people

Posted by: wasaUFO | October 14, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

It is a sad day for the USA when people enmasse believe the polled vote is not valid and taint has worked it's way in.

Enmasse No Confidence is all that the polled vbote has become now.

Terrible Stewards of the US CONSTITUTION.
Vet this polled vote legally and without bias to end the corruption.

Posted by: dottydo | October 14, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

A better analysis than that seen in many of your recent posts. Thanks.

Posted by: mnteng | October 14, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse








Posted by: scrivener50 | October 14, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

If Daggest wins, it would be a pretty severe judgment on the GOP.

Posted by: nodebris | October 14, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I disagree that Dagget can't win CC. The press he is getting right now could create a ground swell to him that could culminate in a win if everything falls just right, although Christie would have to seriously implode for that to happen.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 14, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

From Chuck Todd (link above):

"11 years ago, almost to the day, a new poll came out in the Minnesota governor's race showing third party candidate, Jesse Ventura, sitting at 15%. At the time, just like here in New Jersey, all the buzz in Minnesota was about how Skip Humphrey and Norm Coleman were beating each other up, while the national climate, by the way, wasn't good for either party as we were in the midst of the impeachment mess. Ventura, of course, in about three weeks time, went from polling in the low-to-mid teens to winning the race outright. All the ingredients are there for Daggett in New Jersey: both major party nominees have upside down negatives; 40% believe Christie is NOT honest/trustworthy while 48% believe the same about Corzine. The national climate has a "pox on both houses" feel to it. Now, New Jersey isn't Minnesota and Daggett has NO money to penetrate the NYC media market (which the latest Quinnipiac poll shows is a key weakness; he's stronger in the Philly market). But a break here (say a big endorsement from a well known/respected politician) or a break there (some sort of disastrous new scandal hitting either Corzine or Christie) and the floodgates could open. Daggett's VERY close to being seen as a credible alternative in political terms. Bottom line: there's too much volatility in the political landscape both in Jersey and nationally NOT to take Daggett VERY seriously as someone who could actually win this thing. Stranger things have happened, isn't that right Governor Ventura? Governor Schwarzenegger? Just sayin..."

Posted by: JakeD | October 14, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Back on topic, I hope that Daggett wins!

Posted by: JakeD | October 14, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse


CC, once again, I suggest you contact The Boss' people and see if Bruce plans to do to Christie what he did to Ronald Reagan:

School the politician as to the true meaning of his music, and demand he stop exploiting Bruce's music to further an ideology that is diametrically opposed to Springsteen's world view.

Here's what the likes of Chris Christie helped to bring upon New Jerseyans and the American people -- like warrantless cellphone/GPS stalking of innocent citizens: OR RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | October 14, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

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