The story of what happened over the course of the New Jersey Governor's race is Chris Christie's share of the Republican vote and lead with independents plummeting...and then recovering in the end.
On our first New Jersey poll in late June 93% of Republican said they were going to vote for Christie. But it seemed that the more they got to know him the less they liked him. That dropped to 86% in a late July poll, 79% in a mid-September one, and all the way to 73% in early October. That was the poll where we showed Christie leading by only one point.
I think that may have been the point where Republicans realized that even if they didn't love Christie he was their best chance for getting rid of Jon Corzine. He was at 82% of his party's vote in our last two polls and that pushed his lead back up to four points and then six in the final one.
It was a similar trajectory with independents. Christie started with a 34 point lead, which went to 28, then 19, then 14 on that poll where he led by only a point. But in the final two weeks he built that lead back up to 19 points then 23.
With both Republicans and independents he never recovered the initial standing that afforded him a double digit lead earlier in the campaign, but he got enough of it back to win. And it's interesting to note that while our final four polls showed Christie's lead going from 9 points, then to 1, then back up to 4, then back up to 6 there was much less variability over the course of those in his favorability- it was 45%, then 42%, then 45%, then 43%. It wasn't perceptions of him changing, just the eagerness to get rid of Corzine.
Chris Daggett had no real impact on the final outcome. His main impact on the race was to create an inflated sense of Corzine's prospects as he dug into Christie's share of vote through September and early October. But when it became clear that he wasn't viable Christie started to recover some of his support from earlier in the campaign.
Bottom line on this one: when your favorability is in the mid-30s you just can't get reelected.