Curious what the thoughts are. Might not be important to those in the other parts of the country, but here, having an Independent elected could be monumental.
I’ve met two of the three candidates, and Daggett has my vote… and he is far from a lefty, too.
Chris Daggett gaining in New Jersey race
By MICHAEL FALCONE | 10/13/09 5:13 AM EDT
After unveiling a plan to slash property taxes and garnering rave reviews for a recent debate performance, independent Chris Daggett has surged in the polls and is poised to determine the outcome of the New Jersey governorâ??s race.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University survey last week showed Daggett capturing 17 percent of the vote in a three-way field â?? enough to put Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine ahead of Republican Chris Christie, 38 percent to 37 percent.
And Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, and SurveyUSA, a nonpartisan firm that conducts automated polls, released results last week that pegged Daggettâ??s support at 14 percent.
While few political observers in either major party think he can win outright, in recent weeks online donations to his campaign have spiked from a paltry three a day to about 20; the number of calls to his office from news media outlets around the state have more than tripled; and Daggett has won the endorsement of The Star-Ledger newspaper, the stateâ??s largest.
â??Daggettâ??s election would send shock waves through New Jerseyâ??s ossified political system,â?? The Star-Ledger editorial board wrote this weekend in endorsing the candidate, â??and, we believe, provide a start in a new direction.â??
Daggettâ??s campaign aides believe that the combination of the tax plan, the first debate and months of nonstop attacks between Corzine and Christie has created â??a perfect stormâ?? that has helped the campaign catch on.
â??I think there is a large group of people who are very uneasy and unhappy about the state of affairs in New Jersey, and I think Iâ??m tapping into that disillusionment and disappointment,â?? Daggett said in an interview with POLITICO. â??Once people see that itâ??s possible that weâ??re in striking distance, I think there will be a big movement toward my candidacy.â??
The response from Daggettâ??s major-party rivals could not be more different. Corzine, who appears to have the most to gain from the third-party candidateâ??s success, has all but laid out a welcome mat since Daggettâ??s recent polling performance â?? his strongest yet â?? put Corzine in the lead for the first time in months.
By contrast, in a recent interview with The Star-Ledger, Christie dismissed Daggettâ??s candidacy.
â??His property tax plan is not something that Iâ??m the least bit concerned in, interested in,â?? Christie said. â??And his candidacy is one thatâ??s an amusement, but other than that, heâ??s not going to be governor of New Jersey â?? we all know that. Itâ??s either going to be me or itâ??s going to be Jon Corzine, and Iâ??m not really worried about Chris Daggett in the least.â??
But at their first debate of the campaign on Oct. 1, Christie was not nearly so dismissive. The former federal prosecutor warned that Daggettâ??s plan to expand the state sales tax to include more products and services would hurt average New Jersey residents.
â??His hand is in your pocket,â?? Christie said.
Corzine took a far different approach, using his response to the very first question of the debate to shower Daggett with praise.
â??Let me first of all compliment Mr. Daggett because he has a plan,â?? Corzine said. â??I have a record and a plan, and Mr. Christie has no plan.â??
Speaking to reporters last week, Corzine struck a similarly deferential tone, calling Daggett a â??positive voiceâ?? and a â??healthy part of the debate.â??
The contrast between Mr. Daggettâ??s willingness to put forth a proposal, even if you disagree with it â?? which I do in many respects, even though there are positive aspects of it â?? shows how wanting Mr. Christieâ??s campaign is,â?? Corzine said. â??Heâ??s been out there for 11 months without any serious proposal other than the same rehash of the kinds of things we heard out of the Bush administration â?? â??Cut taxes, cut spending.â??â??
The governorâ??s approach, said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University, reflects the fact that Democrats â??recognize that the better Daggett does, the better it is for Corzine.â??
Until the first debate, it looked as if Daggett might be only a footnote in the Corzine-Christie battle, but Harrison and other political observers agree that Daggett, who surpassed the $340,000 fundraising threshold necessary to earn a spot in the debate, delivered a memorable performance.
Daggett, who once served as deputy chief of staff to former New Jersey Republican Gov. Thomas Kean and later became a state environmental official, acknowledged that he canâ??t match the fundraising prowess of his opponents but said his campaign had reached a tipping point.
â??Disaffected Democrats and Republicans are tired of the same old thing,â?? Daggett said. â??People are just fed up with the way the two parties canâ??t work together.â??
Still, Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that it was â??extremely unlikelyâ?? Daggett could pull ahead of Christie and Corzine during the closing weeks of the campaign, but his own polling showed that Daggett was draining more support from Christie than from Corzine, putting the Republican in a jam.
â??If Christie criticizes Daggettâ??s plans for raising taxes, he elevates Daggettâ??s candidacy and basically legitimizes his position on the ballot,â?? Murray said. â??But if he doesnâ??t go after him, then he lets Daggett have that field all to himself.â??
If the latest polls look anything like the election results on Nov. 3, Daggett could end up spoiling Christieâ??s chances of denying Corzine a second term, according to Murray.
But state GOP Chairman Jay Webber took issue with the notion that Christie was now in a two-front war with both Corzine and Daggett.
â??I donâ??t think Daggett is much of a factor,â?? Webber said, predicting that the independent would not receive as much support on Election Day as he has in recent public opinion polls.
He added: â??Iâ??m not sure who he hurts more â?? the governor or Chris.â??
Other Republicans, including Kean, who serves as an honorary co-chairman of Christieâ??s campaign, are far more concerned.
â??I do think the votes he gets â?? the majority of them â?? are going to come away from Christie,â?? Kean said in an interview. â??I would be deeply disturbed if he threw the race to Corzine.â??
On a personal level, Kean said of his former aide: â??I like him; Iâ??ve always liked him. Heâ??s a friend. Heâ??ll be a friend after this is over.â??
It is Daggettâ??s appeal as a likable character in a race with two other opponents who have been slinging mud for months that will help carry the campaign through Election Day, said Tom Johnson, his campaign manager.
The strategy between now and then, he said, is simple: â??Let the other two beat the hell out of each other, and weâ??ll talk about the issues.â??