After trailing by 9 points in our New Jersey Governor poll last month, Jon Corzine has now pulled within one. Chris Christie leads the race with just 40% to 39% for Corzine and 13% for independent candidate Chris Daggett.
Last month the race was 44-35-13 so Christie has seen a four point drop in his support and Corzine has had a corresponding four point gain while Daggett has remained in place.
It was thought that Corzine's only chance at winning was to make voters dislike Christie even more than him, but he actually has seen a gain in his favorability over the last month. While a majority of voters still don't care for him the 37/55 spread is a whole lot better than the 32/60 of a month ago.
For the first time more voters in the state have a negative opinion of Christie than a favorable one. 44% have an unfavorable opinion of him to 42% positive.
Since PPP's first survey of the contest in June Christie's positives have dropped a point and his negatives have risen by 11. Corzine's favorables have gained a point and his negatives have dropped one.
Corzine's gain since last month's poll is the results of two key trends: a consolidation of his support among Democrats and Christie losing some Republican and independent voters to Daggett.
Last month Corzine was getting 64% of the Democratic vote while Daggett was at 15%. Now Corzine's at 70% and Daggett's at just 10%, an indication that some Democrats who might have considered casting a 'spoiler' ballot for Daggett are now just sticking with the party.
Daggett seems to be drawing from the independent and Republican ranks to a greater extent than he was a month ago. In September Christie was earning 79% of the GOP vote to Daggett's 7%. Christie's dropped six points in his own party to 73% and Daggett's had a commensurate gain to 13%. Among independents what was a 48-16 lead for Christie compared to Daggett four weeks ago is now 42-19. Corzine's support is flat with both Republicans and independents but the shifts between Christie and Daggett have had the effect of bringing him closer overall.
With the race this close the final outcome may hinge on two things: turnout and what Daggett's voters do. The likely electorate at this stage only reports having supported Barack Obama by a four point margin last year, compared to his actual 15 point victory in New Jersey. If Democrats can narrow the enthusiasm gap and get more of their voters interested in the race over the last three weeks Corzine will probably pull it out.
Daggett's voters remain somewhat of a wild card. While 91% of Christie's voters say they're definitely going to vote for him and 88% of Corzine's say the same, just 44% of current Daggett voters say they're firmly committed to him. Asked who their second choice is Daggett supporters go for Christie by a 48-34 margin, so if a lot of them do end up jumping ship Christie might get a small boost.
Only one thing seems for sure about this contest: it's going to be a race to the finish and it will probably be decided on the last lap.
Full results here