President Barack Obama will arrive in New Jersey to campaign for Governor Jon Corzine on Thursday, and he's bringing the chattering classes along with him.
Now, this is a big country and the White House press corps has a lot to cover. Sotomayor, health care, Afghanistan -- who has time to keep up with New Jersey politics? As a result, we're going to see some generalizations made about the race that hold absolutely no water.
So here's a simple guide to what's really going on in the Garden State.
1) Corzine Is Getting His Ass Kicked.
This is an easy one that even the most cursory follower of NJ politics knows. Which leads to....
2) It's Not Obama's Fault.
As much as some would like to believe (I'm looking at you, Sean Hannity circa February), Corzine's bad poll numbers are not a verdict on President Obama's handling of the economy. A lot of polls have been done over the course of this year, and the last time one showed Corzine winning, George W. Bush was still president.
3) It's All Jon Corzine's Fault.
And I mean 'fault' in the least nefarious way. This is a real shoot-the-messenger scenario. Governor Corzine lost his footing back in 2007 with his failed plan to monetize the state's toll roads. He was trying to get New Jersey's fiscal policy back on solid ground after gross mismanagement by Christie Whitman and Jim McGreevey, but the idea of higher tolls caused a revolt. The plan fell apart, and he's been forced to cut services and raise taxes. It's been a tough few years, and his approval rating shows it.
4) Chris Christie Is Not Beating Jon Corzine.
Jon Corzine is beating Jon Corzine. Republican Chris Christie is no great candidate. In spite of his good record for convicting corrupt politicians, he marred his tenure as U.S. Attorney by handing out millions in contracts to cronies, causing the Justice Department to issue new guidelines. Not to mention the still unanswered questions about politicizing the powers of his office.... But none of that matters to voters because this race is about Jon Corzine.
5) The GOP Might Be Due a Win.
It's been 12 years since a Republican won a statewide race in New Jersey -- the longest ongoing GOP dry spell of any state in the nation. New Jersey has also been on a long contrarian streak. The last time the Garden State elected a governor from the same party as the president was 1985.
6) This Race Is Not Over Yet.
Another simple one: the experts agree that Corzine can still make a comeback. If he does, it'll be a great victory for him, and if he doesn't, well... he tried his best. President Obama is certainly a big help: as of last week, 52,000 -- repeat: 52,000 -- RSVP'ed for Thursday's rally. That's a lot of new e-mail addresses for the Corzine listserv.
And finally, dear pundits, try a pork roll and egg sandwich. You won't regret it.