Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Game Plan for Buono

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Game Plan for Buono

Article excerpt

LAST WEEK, New Jersey's Election Law Enforcement Commission released the first financial reports submitted by the gubernatorial campaigns of Governor Christie and his only declared challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono.

The reports indicate that Christie has out-raised his challenger by a 10-1 margin. Christie has raised about $2.1 million to Buono's $214,000.

Money matters in most campaigns, but it matters more in New Jersey races. Historically, in order for candidates to reach voters, they have had to rely on television advertising. And without a statewide commercial television station, candidates from New Jersey have been forced to purchase ad time in two of the most expensive media markets in the country -- New York and Philadelphia -- and pay to reach viewers in Westchester and Wilkes-Barre, who can't even vote for the candidates.

Conventionally, such advertising is more important for the underdog - in this case, Buono -- because television provides a convenient way by which relatively unknown candidates can introduce themselves to voters, thereby gaining the legitimacy required to convince voters that they provide a better alternative to the top dog.

In New Jersey politics, it is quite tempting to equate money with votes: Christie has 10 times the money Buono does, so many would believe that this means the race is over.

But not so fast ...

Back in 2009, I was one of those people who believed that the $27 million Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine spent on his reelection bid would be enough to beat Republican challenger Christie, who spent only $11.4 million, despite Corzine's unpopularity.

I -- along with most analysts -- was wrong then.

Christie won -- partly because of where his money came from, and partly because of how he spent it.

This is not to say that the amount of money no longer matters -- it does. But it is not the only factor that determines electoral outcomes.

This time 'round though, Buono should take a page from the Christie playbook.

The first step is to follow in Christie's footsteps and make a deal with the devils, as Christie was able to do in 2009 (owing in large part to the political bosses' disdain for Corzine). Bitter pill as it is for a legislator with independence and integrity, if Buono is to harbor any hopes of success, she needs to convince them that Buono as governor will be better for them than Christie as governor. …

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