The Blog

The New Jersey Governor's Race

1:31 PM, Apr 24, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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The New Jersey governor's race is heating up. This week's Quinnipiac poll shows the top two Republican candidates, ex-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie and ex-Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, defeating or tying incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine. Corzine's disapproval rating is at a whopping 54 percent. The poll has Christie beating Corzine 45 percent to 38 percent. Lonegan ties Corzine at 41 percent each.

The thing to note about this poll is that Lonegan has been gaining ground. New Jersey's GOP primary is June 2, and the favored candidate is Christie, a tough-on-crime GOP moderate in the Rudy Giuliani mold. Christie has the Jersey GOP establishment's backing, but Lonegan, his top opponent for the nomination, is a pro-life movement conservative who's popular among the state's social conservative activists. Just how conservative is Lonegan? Joe the Plumber will appear at one of his fundraisers in May.

In a March Quinnipiac poll, Christie crushed Lonegan, 40 percent to 19 percent. But those numbers have tightened: in the latest poll, Christie bests Lonegan 46 to 37 percent. So Christie's lead has gone from 21 points to 9 points in one month.

The latest issue in the race is the New Jersey ACLU's attack on Christie for authorizing tracking people through their cell-phones without a warrant. The practice, which is legal, began in the aftermath of 9/11, months before Christie became U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in January 2002. Documents reveal that the U.S. Attorney's office submitted 79 successful applications for tracking the cellphone info. Sixty-six resulted in criminal prosecution.

The ACLU gambit probably helps Christie since it allows him to speak to his record as the prosecutor who helped unfoil a plot to attack Fort Dix. Lonegan has sided with the ACLU on this one, advocating on behalf of privacy rights, prosecutorial restraint, and limited government. We'll see in a month whether this tack works and Lonegan continues to whittle down Christie's lead. And in June we'll know for sure which man will have the dubious honor of facing Corzine's millions in negative advertising this fall.

Update. An earlier version of this post stated that Christie is pro-choice. In fact, he's said that he's pro-life and supports parental notification and a ban on partial-birth abortions.