At last night's general election kickoff rally for Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ), which I was able to attend due to the good fortune of it being in my hometown, Corzine laid out a clear message he'll be taking into the general election: That he has a strong progressive record that he's proud to run on, that you can count on him as an ally of the very popular President Obama -- and perhaps as the most crucial element, that you simply can't
vote Republican, the party of George W. Bush.
Corzine was introduced by none other than Vice President Joe Biden, who praised Corzine as a man who understands the economy, and directly advised Obama and Biden during the transition period, on how to craft the stimulus bill. "And everyone knows," Biden said at one point, "that your state, your state Senate, your state Assembly, your Governor, have inherited a mess left behind by the last administration in Washington, DC."
Corzine's Republican opponent -- who had not yet been determined at that hour, as votes were being counted in the primary, but was widely expected to win -- is former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. The Democrats will therefore go after Christie using not just the unpopular Republican brand in general, but the Bush brand in particular, since Christie was an appointee of the Bush Administration. It's a strategy that would be inviting for a Dem in any state, but especially in this deep-blue bastion.
"They've got a secret plan. They won't tell you whose taxes they plan to cut," Corzine said during his own speech -- then ad-libbed this line that deviated from the prepared remarks
: "They'll check with George Bush about that." So while George W. Bush is out of office, Dems plan to still have him to kick around.
"They just say we should trust them," Corzine said of the Republicans. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not about to put my trust in the same people who gave us George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, skyrocketing unemployment, a housing crisis, bank bailouts, and a war in Iraq."
"America doesn't need to be Bushwacked again!" Corzine said to applause. "New Jersey cannot afford to be Bushwacked again! Let the Republican party talk all it wants. When it comes to credibility, the voters will decide who really gets things done."
Corzine also said that his administration, and the Democratic state legislature, have delivered for New Jersey on various issues. "Come to think of it, the only thing Republicans have delivered is the longest, deepest economic recession in 80 years," he added. "I ask, and I know the answer to this, why would we want to go back to the same failed policies that created this problem in the first place?"
Corzine's own approval ratings have been very much lackluster, and he's trailed Christie in all the recent polls. But New Jersey also has a well known political tradition: That a sizable number of voters don't genuinely like the Democratic candidate, and hold off by calling themselves undecided. But in the home stretch, they will fall in line for the Democrat -- or to be more accurate, they vote against the Republicans. So expect the Democrats to continually use the Bush name, and the fact that his opponent was a U.S. Attorney in the Bush Administration itself, to keep that pattern going.