September 25, 2004


New Jersey, a Blue State, May Be Trying on Shades of Purple (DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI, 9/26/04, NY Times)

To those who view this year's presidential race as a battle between politically polarized red and blue states, New Jersey has usually been viewed as so unquestionably Democratic that it could be colored somewhere between midnight and navy.

But after trailing Mr. Kerry by 10 points in New Jersey as recently as late August, President Bush has sustained a bounce he received after the Republican convention, and three surveys released within the past 10 days suggest that the race for New Jersey's 15 electoral votes is now a statistical dead heat.

No one is certain whether Mr. Bush's surge represents a lasting shift or a momentary blip during a period when the presidential race has veered erratically between fierce personal attacks and withering exchanges about foreign policy. But the varying explanations for the tightening race offer a glimpse of the challenges facing Mr. Kerry as the campaign enters its final weeks.

As Republican strategists predicted earlier this year, the message of their convention in Manhattan, which portrayed Mr. Bush as an unflinching avenger in the war on terror, seems to have resonated in New Jersey, which lost 700 people in the 9/11 attacks, and where the gaping absence on the New York skyline is a backdrop of daily life. The state's Democrats, meanwhile, have spent the past two months buried in an avalanche of bad news: sordid corruption investigations involving Gov. James E. McGreevey's aides and contributors and Mr. McGreevey's resignation amid a sex scandal.

Beyond those local factors, Mr. Kerry's struggles in New Jersey seem to mirror national trends, in which he has lost ground among swing voters, independents and soft Democrats after the Republican National Convention.

Not only did Ronald Reagan win NJ twice but its last three Democratic governors have been despised while its Republican governors have been quite popular. Meanwhile, Senator Toricelli actually had to driop out of his re-election race two years ago to avoid losing. It's an entirely winnable state for the President.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2004 8:03 PM

Brett Schundler lost 51/49, IIRC to McGreevey.

I'll bet part of the state is pissy McGreevey didn't vacate the office yet.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 26, 2004 12:03 AM

OJ - Nice Tom Kean reference in the headline.

Posted by: foos at September 26, 2004 11:33 AM

The 2000 election was the outlyer. W never should have been able to get as close as he did.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 26, 2004 5:46 PM