Why I love Jon Corzine…but hate his campaign

While having dinner with a friend and former colleague tonight, he presented me with the following statement: “[W]e can both agree that Jon Corzine has been a bad governor.” I immediately disagreed with that statement. Predictably, he asked me to defend my position.

At the end of my answer, he seemed to change his mind on Corzine. And he wondered why the Corzine ’09 campaign had never made the arguments I suggested.

I wondered the same thing, too. I’m not an expert in campaign messaging or polling models or television ads…but I think Corzine has a compelling case to make — and I don’t think he’s making it.

The vast majority of New Jerseyans distrust their government, their Governors, and Trenton itself (usually with very good reason). But Corzine has been different from every Governors over the past 18 years. He should say so. To wit:

Florio rasied $2b in taxes because he had to. State voters killed him for it — and gave the entire Statehouse to the GOP for ten years. Whitman rode to office promising a 30% tax reduction. She achieved her goals — and bankrupted the state in the process. I don’t know anyone in the State — Republican or Democrat — who speaks highly of Governor Whitman’s tenure. McGreevey, a man tormented by his own troubles, easily succumbed to the tried-and-true method of ignoring the State’s problems and buying off supporters and enemies, until his world came crashing down.

Enter: Jon Corzine.

Every Governor I can recall has said he/she will cut state spending. Jon Corzine actually did.

Jon Corzine fought his own party and shut down state government for six days over a budget fight. He wanted to raise the sales tax 1-cent so he could pay down debt, fund our pension obligations, and ensure essential services would continue. The Democratic Leadership, led by Speaker Roberts, wanted to continue the “property tax rebates” gimmick. Corzine won half of what he wanted and agreed to a referendum to decide the outcome of the other half-cent: Corzine won; the Democratic Legislative leadership lost.

Corzine, determined to find some way to raise money for the budget and the Transportation Trust Fund, proposed a long-term lease of State tollways. His plan was incredibly unpopular — even though it was the most ambitious and fiscally sound plan proposed to solve our budget and Transportation Trust Fund crisis. Sure, he lost that fight: but he engaged in that discussion, in all 21 counties, trying to make his case. Can anyone imagine Whitman or McGreevery mounting such a campaign? When has a Governor ever been so honest with New Jersey?

Corzine was the first Governor in a long while to treat New Jerseyans like adults — why is his campaign relying upon traffic-ticket side-shows and snide jokes about his opponent’s weight?

You know what I’d like to see:

A ad that begins with a picture of Whitman on the screen; then overlay a graph with the state of the NJ economy during her watch. Another picture: McGreevey; overlay a similar graph. Finally: Jon Corzine…video from his town halls; video of him at the statehouse, on his combative day six speech, fighting his own party to stop the gimmicks and provide essential services; a graph of state spending on his watch…like him or not, Governor Corzine has been honest with NJ. And it’s times like these where we need politicians who will treat us like adults.

Maybe my ideas won’t work in a 30-second spot. Maybe the polls say that voters want to hear something different. Maybe it violates every rule of campaign communications to show an ad of former Governors and talk about how much they sucked. Maybe none of this makes any sense at all.

But I want to see something on TV from the Corzine campaign that has half of the fire that Jon Corzine did when he gave this speech to the Legislature in July 2006.

I want to vote for you, Governor. Have your campaign treat me like an adult and I will.  

Comments (6)

  1. Hopeful

    Not a bad list at all, but probably Corzine is discovering people don’t really like cutting spending whatever they say.

    I am carefully not mentioning the disastrous “Asset monetization” idea  because it’s still astonishing that Corzine tried it. The only good thing to say is that if it were just a normal asset owned by a business, it was a good time to sell before the crash. But it wasn’t, and the scheme both was a terrible idea and hurt him politically.  

  2. JRB

    The idea of “Tough Choices/Decisions” was an early theme in the Corzine ’09 campaign. But people didn’t like it. They want to be told they can have their cake and eat it too.

  3. William Weber (WjcW)

    would be coming out now and telling us how he planned his 40 in 4 campaign 4 years ago (since he is so quick to point out his opponent has no plan), and what extraordinarily inaccurate assumptions he made in spite of his financial wizardry.


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