Discussion of the Power of Christie Coattails in General Election

By Desirée Taylor
Senior Correspondent

Does Chris Christie have the clout to sway tomorrow’s election? It depends on who you talk to.

“Up until this poll, Democrats held a double digit lead. The last poll it was 18 points. In our newest poll, only 7 points in favor of Democrats, which is a huge shift and suggests Christie’s effective gubernatorial campaign is rubbing off on Republicans down the ballot,” said Rutgers Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk.

Among the candidates hoping to catch the wave from Christie’s potential coattails are East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl — a former Democrat turned Republican running for Senate in the 18th District.

“Obviously the longer the governor’s coattails are, it’s beneficial to me and the Assembly candidates. But we’ve worked hard over the past six months, knocked on thousands of doors. So we worked hard. It’s kind of like ice cream, make that a sundae. If the governor’s coattails are cherry on top, it makes it that much more delicious,” Stahl said.

But the Democratic legislative candidates in the 18th district, one of handful expected to be competitive, aren’t concerned about the polls. During a phone interview, Senate candidate Peter Barnes said, “I don’t focus on the other guy or governor. I spent a lifetime developing good relationships and I have a good track record.”

But Republican Assembly candidate Robert Bengivenga Jr. tells a different story.

“David Stahl and I, we want to make sure we represent the people because for far too long, our representatives haven’t represented the people,” Bengivenga said.

Gov. Christie has embraced his role as Republican savior by making key stops in battleground districts like the 38th. That’s where he reiterated his intent to help Republican candidate Fernando Alonso try to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Gordon. Despite this offensive, polls suggest incumbent Democrats still appear to have the upper hand.

“If it’s a district that has an incumbent Democrat, they’re drawn to favor the incumbent. There are few competitive districts in this state. Even with governor’s lead still won’t move a whole lot of districts one way or another,” Redlawsk said.

Of course it all comes down to voter turnout, which could be low for two reasons. One — if voters believe this could be a slam dunk victory they may not be motivated to go to the polls. And since the Senate special election was just a few weeks ago, voter fatigue could also be a factor.