The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Chris Daggett Knows the Score


New Jersey independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett is not a stupid man.

He can read a poll, and he has to know that New Jersey governor Jon Corzine’s numbers have barely changed at all since Daggett’s numbers started rising in the race. He knows that Republican Chris Christie has lost a considerable lead. He knows that the smallest percentage he could get and still win the race is about 34 percent (and then he has to hope each rival gets about 33 percent).

He knows that the highest he’s been at is 20 percent, and he’s been at 7, 13, 19, 11 and 7 percent recently. He knows his name will be hard to find on several counties’ ballots. He knows that the Phillies-Yankees World Series is perfect for keeping residents’ minds off politics, and news coverage at least partially focused elsewhere.

He knows that you don’t see candidates jumping 14 or 20 or 25 points in the final week. He knows he doesn’t have the money of H. Ross Perot or the name recognition of Jesse Ventura. Thus, he knows he’s not going to win. And he knows that his most likely impact on the race is to ensure another four years of Governor Corzine.

Chris Daggett “worked” for Jon Corzine by serving on a state commission; the position was unpaid. Daggett is now saying that he wouldn’t turn down a job offer from either rival if either one won, but he knows Chris Christie will never offer him so much as a piece of gum.

He knows Jon Corzine throws around money like it’s water to help secure his political aspirations.

Is Chris Daggett explicitly helping out Jon Corzine or fishing for a job in Corzine’s second term? No, of course not. But he’s not a stupid man.

I’d also note that  twice, in 24 hours, I’ve heard a voice on the radio mentioning Daggett as a “more conservative” alternative to Christie, which just doesn’t hold water. (The first was Mark Davis sitting in for Rush, the other was Tim Farley on XM POTUS Morning Briefing.)

Yes, Daggett wants to reduce property taxes — heavily focusing on those most-likely-to-vote senior citizens — but he would offset that lost revenue by extend the existing 7 percent sales tax to a wide range of personal, professional, and household services, including services provided to individuals by professionals such as lawyers, accountants, and architects. This is what has the RGA hitting Daggett for wanting to tax your haircut and dry cleaning. In a Creigh Deedsian manner, Daggett’s spokesman says he would only increase highway tolls “if no other viable options are found.”

His plan for imposing a cap on municipal, county, and school-district budgets based on the Consumer Price Index is a really intriguing idea that would almost certainly run into fierce opposition in the state legislature. A Republican governor might have a shot of twisting enough arms to do this; the same plan from an independent with no allies in either party will be DOA.

Sadly, this is the case for a lot of Daggett’s agenda items – they’re not bad ideas, but they’re pipe dreams without similarly reform-minded state legislators. Do you think Daggett will have more pull with Democrats than the teachers’ unions when it comes to “replacing lifetime tenure with five-year renewable performance based contracts, with merit pay opportunities, both for new hires and for teachers who do not currently hold tenure”?

My favorite proposal is Daggett’s happy dream of “abolishing pensions and health-care benefits for part-time legislators, aides and political appointees.” That would be swell, but you would be trying to persuade the state legislature to cut their own benefits and pensions.

In a law that almost seemed aimed at Corzine, Daggett wants to “impose a ‘luxury tax’ on political candidates who spend more than twice the public financing limit in gubernatorial elections, with 33 percent of the excess to be shared among rival candidates in proportion to the amount of money they have raised.” In other words, if you spend too much money, you have to give a portion to your rivals. I’m not sure about the constitutionality of that, but the point is moot until you have a state legislature that is even bothered by the Corzines of the world throwing around lots of money. Right now, Democrats hold moderately healthy majorities in both chambers, and they think Corzine’s campaign spending is hunky-dory.

The passion of Daggett’s supporters doesn’t change the fact that the winner on Election Night will have a last name that starts with “C.” Daggett’s efforts are ensuring that it’s Corzine . . . and he doesn’t seem all that bothered by that scenario.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


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