The first of what will be monthly Public Policy Polling surveys looking at the race for Governor in New Jersey finds Chris Christie leading Jon Corzine 51-41.
Christie is being buoyed by a 60-26 advantage with independent voters and a remarkable degree of party unity, as he leads 93-3 with Republicans. By comparison, Corzine has just a 75-16 edge with Democrats.
There's not much doubt Christie's lead is being fueled largely by Corzine's unpopularity. 56% of voters in the state have a negative opinion of the incumbent, while just 36% view him favorably. For Christie the breakdown is 43% positive and 33% unfavorable.
One number pretty much sums up Corzine's current level of unpopularity but also his prospects for improvement. Among the 25% of voters who don't know enough about Christie to have formed an opinion of him one way or the other, he has a 48-30 lead over Corzine. That speaks pretty strongly to the Governor's lack of popularity, but it also speaks to the fact that if he can make those voters to whom Christie is currently a blank slate dislike his challenger even more than they currently dislike him he has a chance. It's probably going to take an effective, relentlessly negative campaign against Christie for Corzine to get reelected.
There are still a lot of votes up for grabs four months out from the election. While just 9% of respondents say they're undecided, 30% of those who currently have a preference say they could change their minds between now and November. That leaves around 36% of the electorate persuadable.
Christie is certainly a strong favorite at this point, but there are enough factors in play that at least have the potential to work in Corzine's favor that it's far from over.
Full results here.