You may look at incumbent Republican governor Chris Christie’s gigantic, 30-percentage-point lead in polling for this year’s race in New Jersey and ask yourself, “If he’s so far ahead, why is he spending so much on television advertising?”
Christie spent $1.5 million on the first ad of his reelection bid, and recently dropped another $850,000 to run radio and television versions of a negative attack ad against his likely Democratic rival, state senator Barbara Buono.
Obviously, New Jersey is one of the most expensive states for campaigning, as it is covered by the most expensive television market in the country (New York) and the fourth-most-expensive (Philadelphia). But a big factor is that a significant portion of Christie’s current campaign cash was raised for his primary race (Christie faces nominal opposition from Seth Grossman), so all of that money must be spent by the state’s June 4 primary.
Second, while Buono’s fundraising has been pretty anemic, a liberal group headed by Buono’s former spokesman spent tons of cash on attack ads hitting Christie:
A liberal advocacy group — One New Jersey — has sunk another $700,000 into purchasing airtime for advertisements opposing Gov. Chris Christie, PolitickerNJ.com reports. That brings the group’s total purchases to $1.8 million for television and another $100,00 on radio, the report said.
Russ Schriefer, a veteran of Christie’s 2009 campaign, is advising him again. He and his longtime business partner, Stuart Stevens, the campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012, visited National Review’s Washington offices today. Schriefer said that while the outlook for Christie is good right now, he has little doubt that at some point polling in the governor’s race will tighten, at least slightly, as Democrats who are not currently paying much attention to the race drift back into the Buono camp.
Schriefer’s comment about the primary funds echoed one of Stevens’ comments about an unforeseen challenge for the Romney camp in the late spring of 2012. Romney had effectively won the Republican nomination but could not spend money raised for the general election until he was officially named the GOP nominee at the convention in Tampa. Romney and his team were left trying to get people to donate, but only to the primary fund.
“It’s very tough to raise money for a primary campaign that everybody thinks you’ve already won,” Stevens said.
At first glance, this would be an argument for moving conventions to much earlier in the year. Or perhaps the distinction between primary- and general-election campaign donations should be eliminated entirely.