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Daggett vs Ventura

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My column makes an early appearance this weekend -- Friday when filed rather than the usual Monday morning -- because it covers the very timely topic of whether independent candidate Chris Daggett might "pull a Jesse Ventura" and score a come-from-nowhere victory in the New Jersey Governor's race. The parallels between the trial heat numbers of Daggett and Ventura are intriguing, but the fact that Ventura had considerably better name identification and a host of other issue make Daggett's climb steeper. Please click through and read in full.

When you are finished, here are some other challenges that got left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Let's call them items seven through nine (since the column includes a list of six):

7) Ballot position - Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray points out via email that Daggett's name will be harder to find on the ballot.

Daggett is an independent who will be buried on the ballot. NJ gives the first two lines on the ballot to the D[emocratic] and R[epublican] nominees (randomly assigned). The remaining candidates (there are 9 this year) are all relegated to a 3rd line - again randomly assigned, which means Daggett's name will be buried amidst a bunch of no hopers and thus very difficult to find.

I'm not sure how the ballot order was handled in Minnesota in 1998.

8) Attitude and Turnout -- Former Star Tribune polling editor Rob Daves argues that a key to Ventura's success is that he "ran on attitude and not agenda." In other words, he used his celebrity persona to stake out a different sort of message, one less about traditional issue positions and more about what one biographer called a "down to earth," non political attitude. That message helped Ventura surge among younger voters who do not typically vote in off year elections. As the Almanac of Politics (2002) put it:

In a year when turnout nationally mostly sagged, turnout surged in Minnesota, especially in the outer counties of the Twin Cities media market; in many counties turnout rose 40% or more from the last off-year election, and was even above the presidential year of 1996. This was the area where Ventura ran best, with 45%, to 34% for Coleman and only 21% for Humphrey.

By contrast, as Patrick Murray notes, it was Chris Christie that tried to run on attitude rather than agenda in New Jersey this year:

Christie tried to use his prosecutorial reputation to paint himself as someone who would be tough with the special interests. And therefore New Jersey would be a better place.

This had two effects. One, it opened him up to opposition research on his character. And it emphasized for voters that his campaign was lacking specifics. That opened up a hole for mild-mannered Daggett to fill with his very specific proposal to address New Jersey's number one issue - property taxes. The kind of specifics that some anti-Corzine voters were looking for, but were not getting from Christie.

Whether this contrast makes Daggett's task easier or harder relative to Ventura remains to be seen. The point is, they are running very different races.

9) Same Day Registration -- Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report passes along one more difference: Minnesota had same day registration in 1998, which helped enable the surge in turnout that Ventura's campaign produced. New Jersey in 2009 does not.

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