TRENTON, N.J. – Three polls released within 48 hours show the New Jersey governor's race has tightened, with Republican Doug Forrester capitalizing on an ethics furor to cut Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine's double-digit lead to as little as 4 percentage points.
Corzine has "been on the defensive for about a month," said Clay F. Richards (search), assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "He can't seem to get out from under that little cloud that has been shadowing his campaign."
The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into a complaint that Corzine failed to report a half-million-dollar loan to a former girlfriend who heads New Jersey's largest state workers union. The senator eventually forgave the loan.
The election, one of two governor's races in the country along with Virginia, is Nov. 8.
The Quinnipiac poll of 874 likely voters released Wednesday put Corzine ahead 48 percent to 44 percent. Corzine had a 10-point advantage in an Aug. 10 Quinnipiac poll. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Forrester, who was behind by 18 points in a different poll earlier this month, hailed the results Wednesday as proof New Jerseyans are hearing his message. Corzine downplayed his shrinking lead, saying, "Polls will fluctuate. The only poll that counts is on Nov. 8."
The two multimillionaires are spending heavily from their personal fortunes on TV ads in the expensive New York and Philadelphia media markets.
Both have also sought help from high-powered supporters. Former President Clinton is scheduled to attend a rally for Corzine on Thursday at Kean University. Forrester has brought in Vice President Dick Cheney, among others. Arizona Sen. John McCain is slated to stump for Forrester in October.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University-PublicMind poll Tuesday showed Corzine up by 8 percentage points, compared with 13 points back in July. And a new poll by Monmouth University and Gannett newspapers had the senator up by 9 points.
The state is investigating whether Forrester, who owns prescription benefits and health insurance companies, made illegal campaign contributions. But the issue has not resonated with voters the way the Corzine controvery has, Richards said.