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Christie’s Lead in NJ Gov’s Race Big But Getting Smaller [AUDIO]

There’s good news for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in today’s Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll.

From left to right: NJ Gov. Chris Christie and Gubernatorial Candidate Sen. Barbara Buono

The incumbent leads his Democratic challenger, State Sen. Barbara Buono by 20 points. There’s also bad news for Christie. He led Buono by 30 points just two months ago.

Garden Staters likely to vote in the November election give Christie a 56 percent to 36 percent lead over Buono. In June, he had a 30 point advantage (61 percent to 31 percent). Republican (90 percent) and independent (64 percent) voters are still solidly in the Christie’s corner, but Democrats are starting to return to Buono’s camp. Christie currently gets 21 percent of the Democratic vote to 71 percent for Buono. In June, the GOP governor enjoyed the support of 36 percent of Democrats compared to 59 percent who backed their own party’s nominee.

“The trend suggests that New Jersey Democrats are coming back home,” says Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “But it’s not quite enough for Buono to overcome Christie’s sizable advantage among independents.”

The majority of likely voters like Christie. In fact, 59 percent have a favorable opinion of him while just 33 percent hold an unfavorable view. Only half the likely electorate is familiar enough with Buono to give an opinion of her, which is 27 percent favorable to 25 percent unfavorable.

Campaign Issues Are Non-Issues

For weeks, Buono has been hammering Christie for appearing in the ‘Stronger than the Storm’ tourism ads, but most voters aren’t swayed. It bears noting that 81 percent of likely voters have actually seen a ‘Stronger than the Storm’ ad and another 10 percent have at least heard about them.

“63 percent say it’s appropriate for the Governor to appear,” explains Murray. “Just 24 percent disapprove of his appearance in those ads so it doesn’t look like that’s going to be a campaign issue.”

The Buono campaign has also been accusing Christie of being more concerned with running for president in 2016 than he is with governing the State of New Jersey. That charge doesn’t seem to be resonating either.

“It’s not clear that that’s going to have an impact because almost every New Jerseyan believes that Gov. Christie is going to run for president in 2016,” says Murray. “Convincing more voters that Gov. Christie has his eyes set on the White House may narrow the gap for Buono, but is unlikely to close it.”

The governor’s presidential aspirations come as no surprise to New Jersey voters, 19 percent of whom say he is definitely running in 2016 and 60 percent who say he is probably going to run. Among those who say he is definitely going to run, Christie still holds a lead of 50 percent to 39 percent over Buono.

The Governor has been taking shots at his opponents too. He’s been trying to tie Buono and Democratic legislators to unpopular former Gov. Jon Corzine. That doesn’t seem to be working all that well for Christie.

“70 percent say that Corzine is not going to be a factor in their vote,” explains Murray. “Among the remainder, 14 percent say Corzine will be a major factor, another 15 percent say he will be a minor factor.”

The survey was conducted by telephone from August 15 to 18, 2013 with 777 New Jersey voters likely to vote in the November general election. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.

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