GOP hoping for long Christie coattails

Pat Orr of Mount Laurel takes a cellphone photo of Gov. Christie with Gary Shibely, a Burlington City crossing guard, during the governor's a campaign stop at Olde City Quilts in Burlington City on Monday.
Pat Orr of Mount Laurel takes a cellphone photo of Gov. Christie with Gary Shibely, a Burlington City crossing guard, during the governor's a campaign stop at Olde City Quilts in Burlington City on Monday. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 06, 2013

With polls predicting a commanding win for Gov. Christie on the eve of New Jersey's general election, legislative candidates entered the final stretch of campaigning Monday, with Republicans hopeful that they could capitalize on Christie's popularity by swinging Democratic voters.

Democrats, meanwhile, were confident that they would hang onto their majorities in both houses, where all 120 legislators are up for election.

Tuesday's ballot also includes county, municipal, and school board races and state and local ballot questions.

Both parties said they were fighting hard in the final hours, knocking on doors and calling voters in last-minute, get-out-the-vote efforts.

"People pay attention in the last 24 hours," said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R., Union).

For Republicans, "the scenario couldn't be better" to pick up seats, Bramnick said.

"The Republican message is more acceptable because people like Chris Christie," he said. "It opens the door for people to consider voting for a Republican when they haven't in the past."

A widening lead for Christie over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono could propel more Republican legislators to victory, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Monday. The poll found Christie had a 36-point lead - a margin that grew by 10 points in the last month, according to poll director David Redlawsk, a Rutgers political science professor.

Christie seems to have attracted a growing number of Democrats, Redlawsk said. Voters prefer that Democrats keep control of the Legislature by a seven-point margin, compared to 12 points in early September.

"The real story tomorrow could be that Republicans make unexpected legislative gains," Redlawsk said.

He noted that the legislative-district map redrawn in 2011 favors Democrats, but "Christie's huge margin may make a difference."

Two other polls released Monday show smaller margins of victory for Christie. The governor had a 28-point lead in a Quinnipiac University poll and a 20-point lead in a Monmouth University poll.

Patrick Murray, a Monmouth pollster, said last week that he did not expect Republicans to gain more than a few legislative seats, noting that many Democrats have campaigned on platforms of working with Christie.

Money raised by candidates and outside groups has been pouring into battleground districts. As of last week, the most expensive races in the state were in South Jersey's Third District, home to Senate President Steve Sweeney (D., Gloucester).

In recent days, Christie has injected himself into several races. The governor's campaign has paid for television ads backing Republicans in District 14, where Sen. Linda Greenstein (D., Middlesex) is vying with former Republican State Sen. Peter Inverso; District 18, which includes parts of Middlesex County and is Buono's district; and District 38, where Sen. Bob Gordon (D., Bergen) is fending off a challenge from Republican Fernando Alonso.

Seeing chances for Republican gains in those districts, Christie's campaign also has paid for robocalls and mail, campaign spokesman Kevin Roberts said.

"We're playing offense in the final days and hoping to pick up a few seats along the way," he said.

Democrats got help last weekend from the recently sworn-in U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who took part in get-out-the-vote rallies and phone banks in a number of districts, including the competitive 14th.

Booker also has recorded robocalls, spokesman Kevin Griffis said.

"He wants to see leaders whose values are consistent with his own," including support for same-sex marriage and increasing the minimum wage, Griffis said.

Democrats control the Assembly, 48-32, and Senate, 24-16 - margins they are optimistic they'll preserve, said Derek Roseman, a spokesman for the Democratic campaigns.

After months of campaigning and knocking on "tens of thousands" of doors in the days before the election, Democrats are positioned to "come back with every Democratic incumbent intact," he said.

Christie "obviously is someone who draws a crowd," Roseman said. But "a late visit by him isn't going to be swaying a lot more voters."


Voter Assistance

Polls are open Tuesday in New Jersey from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For information or assistance at the polls, call:

Burlington County: 609-265-5185

Camden County: 856-401-8683

Gloucester County: 856-384-4501

New Jersey Division of Elections: 609-292-3760


>Inquirer.com

Go to www.inquirer.com throughout the day for election coverage and for results once the polls close.


mhanna@phillynews.com

609-989-8990 @maddiehanna

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