Monday Fix

Another Obstacle for Corzine in Uphill Reelection Fight

New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) has been trailing by double digits in polls.
New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) has been trailing by double digits in polls. (By Mel Evans -- Associated Press)
By Chris Cillizza
Monday, July 27, 2009

The arrests of a number of New Jersey politicians late last week in connection with a money laundering and bribery scandal makes what was already a tough reelection fight this fall for Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) even more difficult.

The sting, in which 44 people were arrested, including two state assemblymen and three mayors, also led to the resignation of Joseph V. Doria Jr., who served as the head of Corzine's Department of Community Affairs. Doria's home was raided, but he was not arrested.

Corzine, already embattled in his reelection bid this fall thanks to voter discontent with the economy among other things, immediately sought to distance himself from the corruption scandal -- naming state Sen. Loretta Weinberg as his running mate Saturday and touting her reputation as the "conscience of the legislature."

Spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith added that Corzine had "implemented the most stringent ethics reforms in New Jersey history over the last three years."

For many Democratic operatives, however, the corruption scandal was not so easily dismissed.

One senior Democratic strategist who has worked extensively in the state called the sting a "tipping point" for voters who have been "looking for an excuse to vote against business as usual for years but didn't have an acceptable alternative."

Former U.S attorney Chris Christie (R) would seem to fill that void, having spent much of the campaign touting his law-and-order credentials -- a message that dovetails nicely with the current corruption case.

Christie released a television ad Friday that begins: "As U.S. attorney, I put corrupt public officials in jail -- Republicans and Democrats."

Polling done before the sting operation showed Christie with a steady double-digit lead despite Corzine's heavy spending -- a former Goldman Sachs executive, the governor has considerable wealth -- and attacks on Christie's ethics.

"His clearest route to victory had been to spend tens of millions making clear he'd cleaned up Trenton and bloodying Christie with accusations of graft and corruption," said one Democratic operative with long ties to New Jersey. "Now, a member of his cabinet and mayors he needs for turnout are caught up in a huge corruption ring, so he can't run on ethics reform. So now what's his road map to victory?"

The Democratic Edge

The last month has been kind to Senate Republicans.

Top-tier candidates in Illinois and New Hampshire have decided to run on the Republican side, and primaries have gotten clearer -- or at least less messy -- in Missouri and Florida.

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