Electoral Reform and the NJ Governor’s Race

Jonathan Martin writes about the crucial role being played in the New Jersey gubernatorial race by former moderate Republican Christopher Daggett’s surprisingly strong independent bid:

Christie, who had been running a traditional anti-incumbent campaign against Corzine, must now reckon with a perennial question faced by candidates who are imperiled by a lesser-known, third-party contender: To attack Daggett is to elevate him, effectively acknowledging that he’s a serious candidate and offering him free publicity. But ignoring him could amount to disregarding the most serious threat to Christie’s campaign, leaving Daggett to siphon away a significant amount of voters who are intent on registering their opposition to Corzine.

Ed Kilgore observes:

But Christie really doesn’t control that decision, since his major funding source, the Republican Governors’ Association, has already started going after Daggett with sledge hammers. It appears their theory is that attacks on Daggett as a “tax-and-spend liberal” will either flip Daggett voters to Christie, or perhaps even drive liberal voters who would otherwise support Corzine to the third-party candidate (who already has significant support from environmentalists). Again, the operative assumption is that Corzine’s vote has hit its “ceiling,” so there’s relatively little risk in drawing further attention to Daggett.


But you have to wonder: does Christie’s vote (now that he’s increasingly campaigning like a conventional conservative Republican) also have a “ceiling,” based on the Republican Party’s legendary handicaps in NJ?

This is the kind of thing that makes you pine for Instant-Runoff Voting (or actual runoffs). Wouldn’t it be nice if Daggett’s voters got to actually register their second-choice preference, thus ensuring that the winner of Christie-Corzine would actually be the one the voters prefer? What’s more, right now it’s clear that a lot of New Jerseyites find Daggett appealing. And the polls almost certainly understate the true level of preference for him, since voting Daggett in a first past the post system doesn’t really make tactical sense. If people knew that a vote for Daggett wasn’t a “wasted” vote, it’s possible he could win the election.