The fight for the New Jersey governor's seat is to heat up on the airwaves Wednesday as Gov. Christie launches his first TV ad of the campaign - a $1.2 million, 60-second spot on jobs, education and taxes, with a hint of Sandy imagery.
"Four years ago, New Jersey was broken: runaway spending, the nation's highest taxes, and unemployment on the rise," the narrator says. "Then we elected Chris Christie. He made the tough decisions to get New Jersey back on track."
The ad notably does not mention the name of the Republican governor's presumptive Democratic challenger, State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex). Both candidates have nominal opposition in their primaries in June and are expected to face each other in the fall.
Buono is way behind in the polls (the latest Quinnipiac has Christie up by 32 points) and in fund-raising (Christie has more than $5 million, compared to Buono's approximately $1.7 million in private donations and state matching funds).
Yet a liberal group beat Christie to the airwaves.
An entity called One New Jersey, which because of its tax designation is not required to reveal its donors, began showing two 30-second anti-Christie ads on broadcast, cable, and the Internet last month.
Neither of those ads mentioned Buono. Instead, they slammed Christie for rejecting funding for Planned Parenthood, vetoing a minimum-wage increase, and blocking a so-called millionaires' tax.
By contrast, in Christie's ad, the narrator concludes: The "most important thing he did has little to do with numbers, statistics, or even politics. He made us proud to say we're from New Jersey."
The spot, which will be seen on network and cable TV in the Philadelphia and New York markets, oversimplifies some fine points.
It says Christie "cut taxes" - but that refers to business taxes and not to the property taxes that New Jerseyans routinely say are their biggest concern. He is correct in saying he capped property taxes - but that was just for increases; for most homeowners, tax bills have gone up.
Viewers will see the phrase "no new taxes for anyone." But, to balance budgets, Christie cut into tax credit programs, which effectively raised taxes on some.
The ad says that Christie worked with both Democrats and Republicans - showing that "compromise is not a dirty word." His ability to get proposals passed by a Democratic legislature is a hallmark of his term. For example, as the ad notes, he signed a law sponsored by a Democrat that creates a system of paying good teachers better salaries.
But when the ad says education spending is the highest ever, it is really referring to money from the state. With help from federal stimulus funds, Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, sent more money to schools.
Christie's ad is right when it argues that job growth is on the rise - but the state's unemployment rate is among the worst in the nation.
The ad does not mention Sandy, which polls showed boosted Christie's popularity. But the imagery of his handling of the aftermath of the storm is omnipresent. Scenes depict Christie hugging a Sandy victim, meeting with first responders and, in the final cut, looking at the iconic image of the Seaside Heights roller coaster washed into the Atlantic Ocean.