In the race for governor, Chris Christie is leading in the polls but his political advisor Mike DuHaime told NJ Today Mike Schneider that the campaign is still working hard since they know Republicans often have difficulty getting elected in the Garden State.
According to the latest Kean University poll, just 35 percent of likely voters say they’re familiar with challenger Barbara Buono while 96 percent know about Christie and 71 percent say they like the job he’s doing as governor. Even with a strong showing in the polls, DuHaime said the campaign won’t be complacent.
“This is a very difficult state for a Republican. The president won here by 18 points last year. It’s a state that continues to move left. We haven’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate for 40 years, so we know how difficult this state is for any kind of Republican,” DuHaime said. “Obviously we feel very good about where the race stands today and the governor’s strength and popularity, but nobody’s taking anything for granted.”
DuHaime said the Christie campaign has just started a $1.2 million media buy to lay out the governor’s accomplishments and set the tone for the campaign.
At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, comedian Conan O’Brien made a joke that someone mistakenly sat Christie with Republicans, referencing how he may be perceived nationally since working with Democrats, including President Barack Obama. DuHaime said the joke and that perception doesn’t worry him.
“He does what he thinks is right. And he’s certainly somebody who’s cut taxes, cut spending, reigned in the size of government and things he’s done to reform pensions and benefits to bring taxes and spending down. I don’t think there’s any Republican that can really hold a candle to that type of record,” DuHaime said. He added that Christie isn’t afraid to reach out to Democrats and work with them to accomplish his goals. He also praised Christie for his work with Obama after Hurricane Sandy.
“That was something that a lot of people saw and I think most people really approved of. If there were some people who disapproved, so be it. He was doing the right thing,” said DuHaime.
Some who supported Christie in his bid for governor in 2009 have changed course, including the New Jersey Environmental Federation. Campaign Director David Pringle told Schneider that Christie hasn’t kept his campaign promises with regard to the environment and the group has endorsed Buono for governor. DuHaime said it’s inevitable that groups won’t always agree with the governor.
“I don’t think there are anybody or any group that necessarily agrees with another person 100 percent of the time,” DuHaime said. “There are a number of trade organizations, trade unions that have endorsed the governor. I don’t think they’ve agreed with him 100 percent of the time. But he’s moving the state in the right direction, moving the economy in the right direction and those are flips from groups that endorsed Gov. Corzine last time.”
DuHaime also pointed out that several Democratic mayors have publicly endorsed Christie in his bid for reelection. “I think most people realize that even if you don’t agree on every single issue, this is a governor that’s moving the state in the right direction,” he said.
The communication workers’ union has an ad campaign that criticizes the Christie administration for its deal to privatize the state lottery. DuHaime said the Communication Workers of America has already endorsed Buono and endorsed Jon Corzine in the last gubernatorial race. He said the union has opposed all Christie has done to shrink the size of government.
“I think the very thing that they want is growth in government. Their goal is to grow the size of government, which is going to increase taxes, increase spending,” DuHaime said. “So they’re opposed to what the governor’s done.”
While some critics have said Christie’s actions haven’t solved the problems but put them off, like deferring rebate reimbursement checks, DuHaime counters that Christie came to power during a troubled financial time. “He inherited a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, was able to balance four budgets in a row without raising taxes on anybody. That’s very different from 10 years ago. We’re turning the ship around,” he said. “This state was in a fiscal mess when he inherited it and he’s turned it around.”
DuHaime said shrinking the size of government has done a lot to help the financial situation in the state. “You’re gonna find some disagreement between the governor and certain groups or voters. But at the end of the day, he’s moving the state in the right direction and that’s what matters.”
Christie has renewed calls for an income tax cut. Critics say the state can’t afford such action, but DuHaime thinks revenues are high enough to support it.
“We’re gonna hit the projections where we wanted to. And the bottom line after all these years of raising taxes on people, it’s time to try to put some money back in people’s pocket,” DuHaime said. “It’s a beginning to try to move this back in the right direction to lower taxes in the state and the Democrats continue to find a reason to block it.”