The race for Governor is a statistical tie, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released this morning showing Gov. Jon Corzine leading Republican Christopher Christie 39%-36% among likely voters, with 20% for independent Christopher Daggett. The margin of error is +/- 4%.
Corzine is running third among independents, with 27%; Christie leads Daggett 35%-31%.
"While Jon Corzine has made up a lot of ground in all the polls since last summer, he has not done it by increasing his support. Instead, Chris Christie has lost support as some voters who are opposed to Corzine have become attracted to Chris Daggett," said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. "Even so, it is important to note that Corzine's lead in this poll is within the margin of error and if the election were today, the winner would be the candidate who can best rally his troops. We don't know now who that will be."
Corzine has upside-down favorables of 40%-52% and Christie is upside down, 39%-42%. Dagget is at 31%-15%. But more than half of the likely voters polled are unfamiliar with Daggett.
The poll shows Corzine benefits by increased support for Daggett, who appears to be taking votes from Christie. When asked how they would vote in a two-way race, 37% of Daggett supporters say they did not know or might not vote; 34% went for Christie and 28% for Corzine.
"Daggett continues to draw fairly evenly from both major party candidates. However, in a close race, it may make a difference that Daggett voters are people who would have been slightly more on Christie's side than on Corzine's in a two-way race," Redlawsk said. "The underlying question is whether current Daggett supporters really will vote for him on Election Day, or whether they will opt for their second choice, one of the major party candidates.
In recent years, Eagleton-Rutgers polls have been viewed as Democratic-leaning. Their new poll director, David Redlawsk, was a Democratic elected official in New Jersey, and then served as a Democratic County Chairman and John Edwards delegate in Iowa. His old website sported a Democratic National Committee logo and says "I'm active in the Democratic Party."
In 2004, Rutgers hired Jeffrey Levine, a political consultant whose firm polled for Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt earlier that year and Democratic State Senate candidate Blair MacInnes the year before. Levine's appointment triggered the resignation of Eagleton poll director Clifford Zukin, a Rutgers professor who says he quit because he didn't want to seek Eagleton become a Democratic or Republican polling shop.
The poll of 583 likely voters was conducted October 15-20 and has a margin of error of +/- 4%.