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New Jersey's Race for Governor-Corzine, Christie, and Daggett are each awful

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In 1994, the NBA’s New Jersey Nets considered renaming themselves the Swamp Dragons. Ownership eventually declined and the name-change was unofficially handed off to politicians running for statewide office.

Next week, our neighbors across the Delaware will be voting for governor. Their choices: A corrupt jogger, a corrupt fat dude, and someone else who’s neither – but not much else.

Since Philadelphia is one of the two markets for New Jersey television, we Philadelphians get to see first hand the sort of monkeys-with-feces tactics the Garden State’s rulers toss at each other during election season. It’s always bad (in 2005, Doug Forrester used now-Governor Jon Corzine’s ex-wife to attack him), but this year’s candidates have sunk to new depths of sour political bile straight from the dragon’s belly.

Problem is, it might work.

Corzine takes the cupcake for most ridiculous television ad. In a commercial titled “If,” the Corzine campaign accuses a corpulent Chris Christie of throwing “his weight around” to get out of traffic tickets years back. The money line comes soon before a moving image of Christie waddling from an SUV, not-so-subtly making fun of the Republican for his bleu cheese consumption.

Political humor blog Wonkette said of the commercial by headline, “Corzine Ad: Don’t Vote For My Super-Duper Fat Fatty McFatfat Opponent.” In the article, Wonkette editor Jim Newell writes, “Political experts monitoring the race between Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie have been wondering for a while now whether Christie’s campaign will sink under his massive super-fat insanely obese body.”

Slate reporter Daniel Engber writes of the situation, “In the race for governor of a very blue state, Christie's girth marks him as an outsider – a member of the chunky-monkey Fox News demographic...If Christie stands in for America's boorish consumer culture, then Corzine – slender, bearded, and bespectacled – represents the cosmopolitan elite.” Engber found that in the 2008 race between Obama and McCain, Obama carried 17 of the 20 thinnest states while McCain represented 16 of the 20 fattest. Jersey – you guessed it – is one of the thinnest.

According to Public Policy Polling, 20 percent of undecided New Jersey voters are less likely to vote for a candidate who’s overweight.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins said of Corzine’s tactics: “It’s hard to blame his campaign for focusing on matters of girth. The state is a mess, his party members keep getting indicted and his personality is what we always like to politely term “abrasive.” All he’s really got is his ability to run a 10K.”

Corzine’s job as governor has been dismal to say the least. Yeah, he’s swollen the same property taxes he promised to deflate. Yeah, he’s corrupt. His former girlfriend Carla Katz helped secure renewal of negotiations with the state’s seven major state employee unions, including the Communications Workers of America, in which Katz was the president, in 2006, thanks to a phone call to Corzine’s office. A host of politicians – including his Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria, Jr. – were arrested as part of an FBI raid back in July (to be fair, Republicans were part of the raid, too). Citizens of New Jersey have stopped his Turnpike toll hikes as well as his personally-financed crusade for more federal funds toward stem cell research.

That aside, Corzine is also just plain old universally hated. His approval rating has always hovered around 50%, and even today, in spite of the fact that he might get re-elected, his disapproval ratings outrank his approval, which have sunk to the mid-30s.

In addition to his bumbling rule over New Jersey during a time of intense corruption, job losses (which you can’t blame him for, entirely), and raised taxes, this piece of bearded, bespectacled elitism is only in politics in the first place because he got rich off acting as CEO of global banking and investment firm Goldman Sachs, which Matt Tiabbi of Rolling Stone has dubbed a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

To top things off, while CEO, Corzine appointed former Bush treasury secretary Henry Paulson to the 5-person executive committee of the bloodsucking cephalopod financial firm. Paulson, of course, infamously stated of the Bush administration’s $700 billion bank bailout to Forbes.com through a spokeswoman: “It's not based on any particular data point…We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

But Corzine’s metabolism may be saving him – in addition to a few other non-issues. The governor’s made a habit of invoking his shared post-name letter (D) with a certain popular president. Have you come across the Ben Franklin lately? Maybe you’ve seen President Obama and his apparent running mate on a billboard reading “Obama-Corzine” and not much else (Obama will be in Camden on Sunday, campaigning for Corzine). Doubling down, Corzine has bizarrely invoked the 2006-2008 election season colloquially, linking Christie to former president and current witness protection plan patron, George W. Bush.

Christie was nominated as a U.S. Attorney under Bush in 2001 and, while there, spoke with devil incarnate Karl Rove about a possible gubernatorial run. The talk between Rove and Christie, the Corzine camp suggests, violates the Hatch Act of 1939, which states U.S. Attorneys can’t engage in partisan political activities. Of course, considering the Bush-era U.S. Attorneys, Christie speaking with Rove might have been the jaywalking of crimes committed.

In August, Chris Christie acknowledged he’d loaned more than $40,000 to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown, while serving as her superior. He didn’t report the loan on his income tax returns or his mandatory financial disclosure report to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Later that month, Brown resigned from her post, inciting the “I’ll be a distraction” defense. She’s right, especially since Christie’s only winning issue is taxes. (He’s going to lower them. Somehow.)

The wild card is Chris Daggett. With apparent New Jerseyian disgust coming from either side, the Independent candidate has passed the 20% mark in a recent poll released by Rutgers University’s Eagleron Institute and is participating in debates. He’s served both Republicans and Democrats in the state as deputy chief of staff specializing in education policy (under Kean), Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (also under Kean), and chairman of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Permit Efficiency Task Force (under Corzine). His problem is that he’s running on not literally being the other candidates, even if he leans toward the right, and few other mentionable issues.

He’s likely taken votes away from Christie, considering Corzine trailed the Republican by double-digits until Daggett entered the race. Now it’s a two-way statistical tie between Christie and Corzine, with Daggett acting as spoiler.

Christie’s commercials are now Tweedling the other two candidates as one in the same – they’re calling Daggett “like Corzine, only worse.” And that may be, but in Jersey politics, that’s what the Swamp Dragons give you – venom and fire from the muck of the two, and now three, party system. And not much else.

 photo: www.nj.com