Obama Rolls the Dice and Craps Out in New Jersey

The news was official earlier than anyone expected: Chris Christie won the race for governor in New Jersey.

On Election Day, we heard of eyewitness reports that convicted felons were going door-to-door in Morris Township in an effort to get out the vote for the Democrats. And we heard of automated phone calls for independent candidate Chris Daggett that were paid for by the Democrats. There was also a huge rise in absentee ballots, and allegations that ACORN workers had collected absentee ballots at East Orange General Hospital.

One guy even showed up yesterday at his polling precinct to find that someone else had requested an absentee ballot in his name.

The increase in absentee ballots was a story in itself. By 2005, the state had removed many of the limitations for voting by absentee ballot, and last week the New Jersey Democratic Party had requested that the New Jersey secretary of state ignore mismatched signatures on the ballot requests. Of course, this lends itself to  ballot fraud -- a long-standing issue in the state. (In September, an Atlantic City councilman and 13 of his workers were indicted on absentee ballot fraud.)

Most of us who have lived in New Jersey for decades, however, expected the unions to turn out en masse to outmuscle and outnumber other voters in favor of Corzine. After all, the state is the largest employer in New Jersey, and that’s what unions do, sometimes not very subtly. Union leaders have been known to brag about it:

"We call it knock and drag," said Jim Williams, general president and director of organizing of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, with about 3,500 members in New Jersey. "We knock on the door and drag 'em out to vote."

Corzine also greatly outspent (from his own pockets) his challengers; he outspent Christie 3:1 and Daggett by nearly 12:1.

The state Democrats had the full support of the Obama campaign staff, but it didn't stop there. President Obama visited the state four times and was in New Jersey campaigning at  five events last Sunday, telling voters to get their cousins out to vote for Corzine:

“You’re going to need to get Cousin Pookie off the couch and say ‘Pookie, it’s time to go vote,’” Mr. Obama said. “You’ve all got a Cousin Pookie. You know whom I’m talking about.”

At least the president didn’t ask anyone to “knock and drag” their relatives to the polls. Cousin Pookie did get up and vote, but not the way Obama wanted.

Things must have been looking grim enough on Election Day, because Obama’s campaign manager was saying that the elections didn’t mean much.