jon corzine

The Obama Touch - He's No Midas

The Midas Touch. Very few people have it. Off the top of my head I think of: Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and Phil Jackson. Wherever they go, and whatever they do, they succeed. Most people don’t. The first person I think of: Barack Obama. Following his meteoric climb to the presidency he has become political poison to nearly everything he has come into contact with.

The “Obama Touch” begain with the New Jersey Gubernatorial race. The President campaigned heavily for the Democratic incumbent John Corzine in a state that should have been a lock regardless of his cameo.  A deep-pocketed incumbent in a blue state that Obama won by 16% up against an underfunded Republican who didn’t even run a great campaign. But five appearances and a slew of quotes like “[Corzine] is one of the best partners I have in the White House” later, Democrats had lost the governor’s mansion.

Same story, same result in Massachusetts where Martha Coakley fell from a 17% lead in the polls to be defeated by an upstart Republican candidate. Obama was there as well, campaigning for Coakley when the race was a statistical dead heat, hoping his popularity would save the day in the land of Kennedy’s. It didn’t. By the time Obama left, Scott Brown had established a firm 9% lead over the Democrat.

He called the 19-0 Kentucky basketball team to congratulate them on their “Hoops for Haiti” program. They promptly lost. He made countless speeches and appearances to spread the word about health care reform. It’s looking more dead by the day. He wanted to pass a comprehensive energy and environmental reform bill. Then came “Climategate” and an ongoing investigation into the science of global warming. Tough year.

A new Gallup poll shows the depth of the Obama Touch,

Issue Approval Obama’s lowest job approval ratings come in the areas of healthcare policy, the economy, and the federal budget deficit, which coincidentally are the three issues he has devoted the most face-time to. To some degree, this is exactly as you would expect it. The President can be seen as devoting his popularity in an attempt to rally support for unpopular portions of his agenda. It wouldn’t make sense for him to expend all of his political capital to hammer home issues that people already agree with. But this would overlook a key point behind these latest poll numbers – almost all of them represent Obama’s lowest popularity on the issue since he became President.

The more he tries to sell health care, the more people refuse to buy into it:

Healthcare Approval

The more he says he’s going to work to fix the economy, the less people believe him:

Economy Approval

What the President and Congressional Democrats must understand is that it’s nothing personal. Although it certainly cannot be said that he has the Midas Touch, it is not Obama’s mere association that is dragging candidates and policies into the abyss. It’s that Obama’s attempts to emphasize an issue are acting to highlight the flaws in the Democrats plans. People learned that although health care reform sounds great, any attempt that fails to bend the cost-curve is kinda pointless. People figured out that Obama’s plan to fix the economy, well…wait, what is Obama’s plan to fix the economy?

The Obama Touch, anything he touches suffers an immediate drop in approval ratings. But it’s a curable disease. Step 1: under-promise and over-deliver. Step 2: consult with Republicans – they have ideas that will surprise you. Step 3: align your policy goals with the public – i.e. GET MOVING ON THE ECONOMY!

- Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee

The "bad candidate" excuse

An instant explanation has been advanced by the Left to explain away the beat-down they received in Massachusetts Tuesday.

Well, what do you expect? Martha Coakley was simply a bad candidate

I'm not going to pretend Coakley did a stellar job. Indeed, the last week of her campaign was so full of bizarre gaffes as to wonder if this was Joe Biden after doing really, really bad peyote. But, we are talking about a 100,000 vote clock cleaning.  Prior to Martha deciding to turn her footwear into snack food something had gone wrong for the Democrats in Massachusetts.

The prominent polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, offered this take on the Coakley collapse.

It’s not all her fault.  It’s the policies she supported that were more to blame.  She won the Democratic primary trouncing her opponents and was clearly the best candidate the party had to offer in the state.  She’d won statewide in convincing fashion.  She was a proven quantity.  And, yet this race wasn’t even close.

After watching Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine and now Martha Coakley go down in flames, do you really think that the one thing they had in common was that they were below average candidates running sub-par campaigns?

The question I have is: when exactly did Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine and Martha Coakley become "bad candidates"?

Certaintly not in the primaries. Deeds clobbered two better funded rivals (Terry McAulliffe and Brian Moran) in the VA primary.   Deeds had also faced Bob McDonnell before, and barely lost the 2005 AG race. He then lost to the same opponent for Governor in 2009 and the margin of defeat expanded by a factor of 1000.

 In New Jersey, Jon Corzine hardly broke a sweat dispatching his primary opponents. And while NJ Democrats may have considered swapping him out for Corey Booker, Richard Codey or Frank Pallone, in the end the completely venal NJ Democrats thought Corzine gave them their best chance of victory.

Now Martha Coakley. She was elected Attorney General in 2006 with 73% of the vote. In the Senate race ,she defeated a field of Democratic opponents --including a popular House member and a free spending businessman--convincingly.  

She entered 2010 with a million dollars cash-on-hand and an apparent wide lead in the polls.  So what happened to suddenly make her a "bad candidate"?

Seems the common denominator here is contact with the general electorate, now doesn't it?.

Once the calendar turned to 2010 and Martha Coakley couldn't fall back on the standard liberal bromides, well, she fell apart.  Perhaps she never expected  to be pressed in dark blue MA. But what part of the political environment this year won't inflict this damage on any Democrat whom the Republicans press hard?  

David Plouffe better have the "bad candidate" excuse on his favorites list this cycle. He'll need it. 

One final note. In all three epic losses the Democrats have pursued a strategy of victory by disqualification.  In Virginia, an ancient thesis was supposed to make McDonnell unpalatable; in New Jersey, the Corzine camp sought tp turn the election into a referendum on mammograms, and last week Coakley's thin straw was to allege Scott Brown hated rape victims.

I think even Ray Charles could see a pattern here.

Sure I know the argument about " well, we had to try and win ugly".  Message to Democrats: voters have noticed who's getting ugly. Perhaps that's why the results for your party have been...hmmmm, ugly.


2009 Alt Histories

Now that the dust has settled, I thought it might be useful to look at the off-year election and consider what alternative strategies might have yielded.  One thing I've learned about politics is never to buy determinism; there are always a variety of possible outcomes.

Well, here's a few scenarios:

a) Terry McAulliffe was the Democratic nominee for Virginia Governor

It's what everyone expected. Would he have done better than Deeds; or was his weak primary showing evidence he'd have been roadkill in the general election?

b) Jon Corzine stands down on October 1;  NJ Dems do the "Torricelli switch" to Rep. Frank Pallone or Newark Mayor Cory Booker

In retrospect, my belief that Corzine was burnt toast proved correct. It's hard to fault his campaign for his loss, the voters simply wanted him gone. But what if after using Corzine's cash to bloody up Christie the NJ Dems threw a "relief pitcher" into the race? Different outcome? Or would NJ voters reacted poorly to this strategy being used twice? 

c) Deeds runs as an anti-Obama "New Democrat" ala Mark Warner; focuses on downstate VA


d) Deeds runs as a outspoken Obamabot and focuses on NOVA

The consensus is Deeds did neither well and got crushed. Would choosing one or the other have made any difference?

e) No one outside NY State comes to the aid of Doug Hoffman

The Club for Growth, Sarah Palin, Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck are credited or blamed for what happened in NY 23. Given what happened in the local state senate race in 2004, I think the NY Conservative Party was capable under its own power to ensure Scozzafava's defeat? Agree? Disagree?

And what would the national impact of a "quiet" Owens victory have been?

Throw some other possible scenarios out there. Let's reverse engineer these races if we can.

Obama camp: Gives up on VA Gov and NY 23.

At 12:13 pm EDT 10/31/09 , Barack Obama's personal political arm, Organizing for America, sent this e-mail to their list

President Obama needs our help.On Tuesday, voters in New Jersey will go to the polls to elect their next Governor. They'll face a stark choice between Chris Christie -- who will bring failed Bush-era policies back to New Jersey -- and Governor Jon Corzine, who has fought side-by-side with President Obama.Jon Corzine is the only candidate in the race who will be a strong partner for President Obama and work with him to fix our broken health care system and get our economy back on track.So President Obama is counting on us to call Corzine supporters and make sure they show up at the polls Tuesday. In a tight race like this, calling just two or three voters could make the difference -- and our online tool will make calling quick and easy. Get started now:Call Corzine supporters in New Jersey and turn out the vote. 

One can only infer from the omission of any other Democratic candidates that at the last minute the Obama White House has thrown in the towel on VA Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds and NY 23 Democratic candidate Bill Owens, and is doubling down solely on trying to salvage the re-election bid of Jon Corzine, who pulled his own "October surprise" against himself Friday suggesting to the NY Times massive toll hikes on the NJ Turnpike were likely after he gets re-elected.  Which he now denies. Sure. 

We'll see if all of Obama's horses and all of Obama's men can put an incompetent Governor in office again.



What happened to Chris Christie?

I really hate it when I go out on a limb and the guy whom I'm for saws it off behind me.

I have to admit utter disbelief at the polls showing that Corzine has drawn even with Christie in the NJ governor's race.  Basically, what I suggested would be a futile endeavor may have been accomplished by the relentless Corzine money machine.

But that means that a rather large number( 17% +/-) of NJ voters who already have rejected Corzine will need to decide Christie would be even worse

Sadly, this year's NJ Republican campaign has been run with the sort of panache that makes one wish for a re-run of blandness personified, Doug Forrester.   Christie has allowed this campaign not to be a referendum on the incumbent, but has been on the defensive the whole time.

Now there are some factors that explain this away. To a point. Christie saved his resources and while horrendously outspent in September and early October, is now on TV seriously. Which suggests that maybe he'd have been better to have gone "dark" in the summer instead of "renting" an unsustainable lead in the polls.  He's also dealt with the Chris Daggett problem.  Daggett, a liberal independent, has been the remainderman for voters disheartened by the major candidates, and has hit 20% in some polls.  The GOP having turned fire on Daggett, it's possible his anti-Corzine voters drift back to Christie. And that's the ball game.

So why are we here? And what can we take about this?  Christie got boxed on one big issue and he needn't have discused it. He decided to fix health care.

Oops. So what if it was the "big issue". No one expected the Governor of New Jersey to fix it.

Christie proposed "mandate-free" insurance policies. Note to all you CATO institute folks. It went over like a lead balloon. Note to Republican 2010 candidates. Don't propose this pipe dream unless you have the time, money and desire to defend it.

Corzine made out Christie as an opponent of mammograms. That became the issue. And my review of various poll internals indicate that even though Christie's Hispanic support would usually ensure a GOP win, he's bled off seniors badly (running weaker than Kean, Jr. in the 2006 senate race) and slumped among women.

I'm a suburban mick lawyer, not some Sun-Tzu wannabe. But wise up. When you have these two things in the political environment.

A) One killer issue (In Christie's case, Corzine's fiscal incompetence)

B) Less resources than the other guy

Then ALL you talk about is your ONE ISSUE. Let the press harass you as a single issue candidate. Don;t get into the weeds of policy specifics on stuff that a) isn't a voting issue for your race and b) you don;t have a decisive advantage on.

The other guy will try and get his issues on the table. Ignore them. Do not engage.  Stay on message. Make sure the controversy is on your strongest ground.

If the story line today was "Christie is depicted by the press as a Johnny one-note obsessed with his controversial property tax cut plan", Corzine would still be decisively behind.

I hope NJ gets a better Governor than Corzine, though I 've seen little to suggest Christie is much different than the previous GOP governors Kean sr. and Whitman....who weren't huge reformers. (This is not a national "cause" race like NY 23, my friends)   I hope Republicans around the country learn the importance of message discipline from this episode, however.

So a Rabbi, a Mayor, and a Real Estate Developer Walk Into a New Jersey Diner……..



Bookmark and Share   After that, all hell breaks loose as on the morning of July 23rd, over 200 federal agents swept across New York and New Jersey to round up 44 miscreants who were fire inspectors, city planning officials, utilities officials, real estate developers, political operatives, philanthropists, rabbi’s, assemblymen, mayor’s and gubernatorial cabinet officials.

Years of criminal investigation culminated in the discovery of a tangled web of corruption that included the laundering of tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by rabbis in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Deal, N.J., the trafficking of kidneys and fake Gucci handbags and tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to public officials that were meant to get approvals for buildings and other projects in New Jersey.

The key to the arrests was Solomon Dwek, a 36-year-old religious-school head and philanthropist from Monmouth County, N.J., who became a cooperating witness after being charged with defrauding PNC Bank by writing a bad check for $25 million in 2006.

From that point on Dwek was wired, videotaped and followed by F.B.I. agents in a plot straight out of The Soprano’s. On those F.B.I. recordings are such gems as Mr. Dwek stating to one money-launderer that he had “at least $100,000 a month coming from money I ’schnookied’ from banks for bad loans.” In another tape Dwek is seen giving another coconspirator a box of Apple Jacks cereal stuffed with $97,000 cash for a few political favors in return.

Some of the most high profile thugs rounded up were the New Jersey mayors of Ridgefield, Secaucus and Hoboken, Jersey City’s deputy mayor and two state assemblymen.

A former state senate leader and now member of New Jersey Governor Corzine’s cabinet was also implicated and forced to resign after F.B.I officials searched his home in connection to the still unfolding scandal.

All but one of the officeholders are Democrats. The lone Republican is Dan Van Pelt, a double dipping, dual office holder who serves as the mayor of Ocean Township, NJ. and an assemblyman in the state legislature. Republicans throughout the state called for his immediate resignation from both public offices. A call to his office for a reaction was answered by a woman who calmly said “Mr. Van Pelt was arrested today and is out of the office.”

Now that’s New Jersey!

The most conspicuous of all to have been rounded up so far is the Democrat mayor of Hoboken, Peter Cammarano.

Cammarano just took office on July 1st after winning a cantankerous runoff election and despite the efforts of those officials in Hoboken who have not been arrested, Cammarano refuses to resign. After all he just got the job.

On tape, Mr. Cammarano was caught accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from Solomon Dwek in exchange for expediting zoning changes and pushing through approval of building plans. After the money exchanges hands he tells Dwek “you can put your faith in me” and that “I promise you…you’re gonna be, you’re gonna be treated like a friend.” But along the way other embarrassing statements are overheard. At one point, while talking about his chances of winning what, at the time, was his upcoming mayoral race, Cammarano’s cocky bravado compelled him to declare “right now, the Italians, the Hispanics, the seniors are locked down. Nothing can change that now. . . . I could be, uh, indicted, and I’m still gonna win 85 to 95 percent of those populations”. In another very Mafioso-like moment, Cammarano is caught talking about payback for those who were not with him in the election.

None of this is helping Governor Corzine or the image of Democrats who lined up behind the new Hoboken mayor as he was sworn into office. There, U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez as well as Governor Corzine proudly embraced the 32 year old rising Democrat star with warm embraces and glowing praise.

The whole situation has produced an incredibly embarrassing state of affairs for Corzine who ran New Jersey into the ground after taking office almost four years ago and, among other things, promised to quash corruption. After seeing more than 130 public officials plead guilty or get convicted of corruption since 2001, the arrest of 43 Democrats and 1 Republican, at one time, has proven that Corzine did little to achieve that goal.

Like everything else he promised, including getting the state budget under control, Corzine has been a disastrous failure and this monumental size corruption spectacle just hammers that point harder than ever.

But aside from the increased sour impressions that this newest saga creates, is has disabled a a good portion of the Hudson County Democratic political machine and severely handicapped Corzine‘s chances to win reelection with his major campaign theme which consists of repeating Barack Obama’s name and reminding people that he belongs to the same party that the President belongs to.

Hoboken is one of the largest cities in Hudson Country and Corzine’s home town . Hudson County is one of the most heavily Democrat counties in the state and is the crown jewel of the Governor’s base of support and source of the political engine that runs Corzine’s Get-Out-The-Vote operation.

In this recent historic corruption sweep, 19 of those rounded up were Hudson County officials and operatives. All of which were gearing up to pump out the vote for Corzine in November.

Now they are otherwise occupied in criminal court.

One of these 19 is Jack Shaw, a professional politician that has strong ties and influence with unions on Corzine‘s behalf. Another arrested member of the Corzine cabal is Joseph Cardwell, an operative famous for his coordination of African-American voters, a vote so crucial to Corzine‘s reelection that, without success, he begged the new rising political star, Cory Booker, an African-American mayor of New Jersey‘s largest city, to be his Lieutenant Governor.

All of this has placed the decapitated head of a horse on the pillow of Corzine’s deathbed reelection effort that signifies things to come.

The Governor is already running about ten percent behind his chief rival, Republican Chris Christie, and the prevalent political corruption that has been flourishing among Corzine’s political network is neatly countered by the fact that as the state’s former U.S. Attorney, Chris Christie is the most high profile and successful crime buster that New Jersey’s has ever seen. This naturally compensating aspect of Chris Christie’s candidacy is just another nail in Corzine’s political coffin. That and the fact that you have key Corzine campaigners handcuffed, record high unemployment, a decimated business environment and the highest tax burden in the nation, all adds up to his defeat in November.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that the 44 recent and dramatic malfeasances that were linked together and exposed on just one sunny, summer, New Jersey morning, have officially made New Jersey the most politically corrupt state in the nation. It has also made it very clear that New Jerseyans can not trust anyone in government who asks for their support or whom they seek assistance from or discuss issues with. And to make matters worse, this criminal investigation is still ongoing. I fully expect Governor Corzine to, at some point, be implicated himself, for tampering with the case and trying to have the arrests delayed until after the election when news of the scandal could not effect his chances for reelection.

The whole ugly, unfolding, situation is simply a travesty and cry for change. Not just in New Jersey but in politics and public service in general. It makes it quite obvious that something has to give here and it can’t be the voters. They have already given too much in freedom, taxes, patience and quality of life.

But that assessment begs the question, what must give? What must and can we do? It also leads one to wonder if the systemic corruption that exists in public service is simply a byproduct of politics or is it beyond politics and just a part of human nature?

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Jon Corzine will not be Governor of New Jersey in 2010

Over the last few days I've traded a fair number of e-mails with folks very familiar with New Jersey politics.

The consensus is Jon Corzine will not be living in Drumthwacket in January 

Now I'm not saying that Chris Christie is an absolute lock to win--this is New Jersey after all. But Corzine already has lost and the power structure in the national and state Democratic party is going to have to hold a  "Barry Goldwater" meeting with him in the next few weeks. They will execute the old "Torricelli switch"

The internals of recent New Jersey polls are horrid for Corzine.  His job approval wasn't very high to start with, and now it's down to 33%.  He loses badly on handling the state budget and dealing with corruption. And , oops, looks like the corruption issue got back on the front pages in a big way.

The problem with Corzine is he sold his background as a former honcho of Goldman Sachs as evidence that  a) he would manage state budgets and the economy well and b) he was too rich to be corrupt.  Since neither  problem got resolved on Corzine's watch, all he has left is to try and trash Christie.  But that means that a rather large number( 17% +/-) of NJ voters who already have rejected Corzine will need to decide Christie would be even worse. That's a tall order even with unlimited resources. And now it may be simply impossible in the wake of the corruption dragnet.

Were this just about Corzine, the NJ Democrats might just let the chump lose and figure out how to make Christie a one term wonder.  The problem is that NJ voters think the State legislature is equally incompetent. They are now running at 28% approval. And yep, the Democrats control the legislature. Good for them only one house is up this year, and they hold a 48-32 edge.

But here's where Corzine kills the rest of his party. The Democrats took over the Assembly primarily by flipping seats in South Jersey. And Corzine is well on his way to getting crushed in all the counties south of Trenton; losing the Philly suburbs by 18 points and the shore counties by 35 points.  

A 10 point Corzine loss might look respectable if he can still win huge in Newark and Hudson County, but if he loses most of the state's real estate by high double digits the GOP could flip the four legislative districts they would need to oust the Democrats from Assembly control.

So the rest of the party is gonna want to find someone who gives the party a fighting shot at holding the Governor's office, or at least, giving suburban swing voters a reason to hit the reset buttom before sweeping the Republicans back in downballot. And an alternative is right in the wings, State Senate President and former Acting Governor Richard Codey. While Codey's proposals weren;t always popular, he left office in pretty good stead.

Codey would at the minimum force the Christie camp to relaunch their message as well; and might well serve to reduce turnout of apolitical suburban fiscal conservatives eager to spit in Corzine's eye. 

So, I expert Corzine to start getting veiled messages from his co-partisans in New Jersey that they would prefer an alternative. He may be getting them under the radar already; I suspect the visibility will increase so as to drive the point home. How many times can your allies say "no f**king way" before people stop believing you?

I then expect Corzine to be summoned to DC for a "strategy session" with Rahm Emanuel. The purpose of this meeting will be to determine what prestigious sounding economic post can be presented to Corzine so he can drop out "to serve the nation in this time of economic  crisis".  Maybe make Corzine yet another "czar" of something like Third World debt relief or what not.

The White House will not want to see both Democratic held governorships flip to the Republicans this fall.. They already probably have done all they can in VA to save the seat; but VA's demographics provide little room for error for even the best Democrat. NJ's clearly a better bet to hold; but not with a candidate the voters have no use for. 

Both parties have done this in New Jersey--swapped out an unpopular nominee right before an election. In 2002 the NJ Democrats swapped out sleazemeister Senator Robert Torricelli for the aging but respectable Frank Lautenberg. And the GOP had Acting Governor Don DeFrancesco step down for former Congressman Bob Franks; who still lost his primary to Bret Schundler.

The deadline here is whatever a pliable New Jersey Supreme Court will allow to be; so I suspect one more batch of bad polls will appear before the impetus to execute this reaches a boil.  My guess is this all comes to a head in the first half of September.

The NJ and national GOP needs to start thinking now about how it is going to react to a "Torricelli Switch". Forewarned is forearmed!    


I sure hope Moe Lane is right

Since I certainly couldn;t picture my Governor. Jodi Rell involved in anything less than proper.

Now, could I picture NJ's Jon Corzine being "Client # 10? . Sure. Sure I could.

Sadly, this would backfire on the GOP since it would give the DNC a chance to execute the well-traveled path of doing the "Torricelli Switch" and swapping out relatively popular State Senate President Richard Codey, who would stand a far better chance of defeating Republican Chris Christie..

Don't change this channel!


Democratic Governors collapsing?

It is well known that Jon Corzine's numbers are collapsing in New Jersey. But that's not the only state.

For example, look Governor Deval Patrick in Massachussets, as tested by SurveyUSA. He has 28% approve and 68% disapprove. This is flat across region. Even Dems net out at -11, with 42%-53%.

Now look at this poll out of Michigan, H/T Race42008's Kavon Nikrad. Any credible Republican beats the sitting Lt. Gov.

I haven't surveyed all the states, but it feels like someting is happening.

NJ-GOV: GOP Christie up 6 over Dem incumbent Corzine

 This is one that we need to pay attention to. Republican Chris Christie is up 6, 42-36, over incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine.

Save Jersey pulls the real highlights:

On the day Chris Christie officially kicks off his campaign for Governor, his campaign is boosted by news of a poll that shows him as the strongest challenger to Governor Jon Corzine. While neither candidate breaks 50% in the ballot test, Corzine is carrying a 50% disapproval rating. Even further, 54% of New Jerseyans say that Corzine does NOT deserve a second term. Christie leads Corzine among independent voters 49%-24% (a margin that would ensure victories in Bergen and Middlesex). 

 Jim Geraghty has more at the Campaign Spot.

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