The New Jersey results

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First, a complaint about the way New Jersey officials post election results on the Web—and a caveat about what follows. New Jersey didn't start posting election results on the Web until after I went to bed last night, and its current postings are more incomplete than the returns reported by the Associated Press. Also, New Jersey, for no good reason, posts the returns for each candidate on separate pages, which makes calculations of percentages tedious (thank goodness there are only 21 counties!), and each candidate in this case includes not only Democrat Jon Corzine and Republican Doug Forrester but all eight nuisance party candidates, who among them received about 3.5 percent of the vote. I say about because these returns are incomplete. I find that turnout in Hudson County was down 38 percent from 2001—highly unlikely—and that turnout in Atlantic and Cape May counties was down 10 percent. That probably means that most of the precincts left to report are in those counties. Since Hudson County is heavily Democratic and Atlantic County leans that way, while Cape May County is usually Republican, that means that Corzine's final percentage will probably be a little higher and Forrester's a little lower than the numbers I've used here. Also, I've calculated these percentages in tenths but report them rounded off as whole percentages. Given the fact that at least some of them will be different when the final results are in, I think that reporting percentages in tenths is an exercise in spurious precision.

With that in mind, let's go.

There's a certain symmetry in the New Jersey results. In 2000, Al Gore carried the state 56 to 40 percent. One year later, Democrat Jim McGreevey was elected governor by a 56-to-42 percent margin over Republican Bret Schundler. McGreevey got the same percentage as Gore; Schundler ran 2 percent behind Bush.

In 2004, John Kerry carried the state 53 to 46 percent. One year later, Jon Corzine won 53 to 44 percent. Once again, the Democratic candidate for governor got the same percentage as the Democratic candidate for president, and the Republican candidate for governor got 2 percent less than the Republican candidate for president.

Given that symmetry, New Jersey results probably have more relevance to national politics than Virginia results. The New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial nominees occupy about the same place on the national political spectrum as Gore and Kerry. The Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominees in 2001 and 2005 were well to the right of Gore and Kerry. The New Jersey Republican gubernatorial nominees differed, with Schundler about the same place on the spectrum as Bush and Forrester probably somewhat to the left. The Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominees were arguably to the right of Bush.

As mentioned, Bush ran 6 percentage points better in New Jersey in 2004 than in 2000—one of his biggest gains in any state. Forrester ran only 2 percent better than Schundler. But Corzine, like McGreevey, ran no better than the Democratic nominee had run the year before. What I don't see in these numbers is any major move away from the Republican ticket between 2004 and 2005. The patterns look pretty much the same. This is relevant for 2006 for New Jersey's six Republican representatives to Congress. Bush carried only three of their districts in 2000 but carried all six in 2004. If Bush or the Republican label is less attractive in 2006 than it was in 2004, that's a problem for some of these Republicans. These returns suggest that that problem doesn't exist, at least not yet.

Corzine, who probably spent upward of $50 million on this campaign, improved on McGreevey's 2001 percentage in only three counties, according to these incomplete returns: microscopically (+0.3 percent) in Bergen County and Essex County in North Jersey—Newark and the suburbs in the northeastern corner of the state, just across the river from New York City—and by 8 percent in Hudson County. But that latter number may change if more precincts are still to report there (as seems likely: see above), and Hudson was Schundler's home county (he was elected mayor in heavily Democratic Jersey City). It stands to reason that Schundler ran well ahead of his party in his home base and that Corzine this time would run much better than McGreevey. Forrester improved on Schundler's percentage in 14 of 21 counties. He lost ground only in Hudson County (9 percent) and by between 0.3 percent and 2 percent in six other counties. His support was up impressively in Ocean County (7 percent) and Monmouth County (6 percent), in both of which Bush made greater-than-average gains—actually, some of his biggest gains in counties nationally—in 2004 as compared to 2000. These numbers suggest those gains are still in place. Forrester also gained 6 percentage points in Mercer County, his home county.

What about turnout? Current figures show turnout down 2 percent; that will probably be converted to something like a 1 percent increase when the final figures are in. Turnout was up most in suburban counties with little or nothing in the way of central cities: Hunterdon (+13 percent), Gloucester (+9 percent), Somerset (+9 percent), Sussex (+7 percent). All of these but Gloucester went for Forrester. Turnout was down in Newark's Essex County (-4 percent), Camden County (-0.5 percent), and Passaic County (-3 percent) and also in counties with small central cities and quite a few modest-income suburbs—Bergen (-3 percent), Middlesex (-3 percent), and Union (-5 percent). But use these figures with extreme caution, since final returns may boost turnout in one or more of these counties. It does look like there was no surge of turnout in black central-city areas, on which Corzine surely lavished several of his millions.

Bottom line: Despite all the ructions in the national polls, New Jersey looks to be about where it was in 2004. But as in Virginia, neither party was able to raise turnout as much as both did in 2004.