While few New Jersey voters know much about him, former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, a Republican challenger, leads Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine 44-38 percent in this year's Governor's race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.Christie formally announced his candidacy today.
This reverses a 42-36 percent Gov. Corzine lead in a November 19 poll by the independent Quinnipiac University.
In this latest survey, Democrats support Corzine 72-10 percent while Christie leads 86 - 7 percent among Republicans and 49-24 percent among independent voters. Men back the Republican 51-32 percent while women go Democratic 42-38 percent. Black voters back Corzine 68-9 percent while white voters back Christie 52-32 percent.
In a Republican primary, Christie tops former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan 44-17 percent, with 5 percent for Franklin Township Mayor Brian Levine and 2 percent for Assembly member Rick Merkt.
Voters disapprove 50-41 percent of the job Corzine is doing, continuing a six-month string of negative ratings. Independent voters disapprove 62-30 percent, matching the same 2-1 anti-Corzine margin from the election matchup.
"Republican Christopher Christie has broken out of the gate as a strong challenger to Gov. Jon Corzine. In less than four months, he has come from trailing the Governor by six points to leading him by six points - a 12-point shift," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Independents make up a good chuck of voters in this state and a strong anti-Corzine sentiment is building. Virginia is the only other state with a gubernatorial election in 2009, so strong GOP showings could help carry momentum into the 2010 midterms, much as Whitman's 1993 victory over incumbent Jim Florio gained national attention and helped with the GOP's rise in 1994.
The GOP may be on life support nationally, but if they win in New Jersey, they sure will gain confidence.
Update: Thanks to commenter lorien for correcting Whitman's party status. Brainfreeze on that one. And thanks to Ace for linking.