This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.
Poor Barbara Buono. The only Democrat in the state with the guts to take on Chris Christie has languished for months beneath a media radar that’s begun to turn her obscurity into a campaign narrative.
Sadly, it’s a narrative that’s only going to get worse with a new special election to contend with. Instead of the Aug 13 Democratic primary being a coronation for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, signs point to it being a political dogfight between challengers Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.
In addition to helping sap away what little coverage Buono’s campaign was receiving, this new special election will feature big-name candidates raising money from liberal donors, buying up TV ads and doing all the other politicking actions that will continue to suffocate Buono under a cloak of obscurity. I wouldn’t be surprised if every single baby in New Jersey were kissed by a Democrat seeking statewide office before Buono even has a chance to moisten her lips.All this has left Buono’s poll numbers as cold as a microwaveable dinner, and just about as palatable. A new poll from the Stockton Polling Institute shows Buono 40 points down from Christie.
A Quinnipiac University poll says 56 percent of New Jerseyans haven’t even heard of her.
And the icing on this underwhelming cake? A Rutgers Eagleton poll shows eight in 10 Democrats think Christie will win.
Ouch. Remember how hard it was to find Waldo among a crowd of people on those classic “Where’s Waldo” books? Now imagine you weren’t told who Waldo was or what he looked like. That’s Buono’s campaign.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, Democrats seem to be in love with Chris Christie these days. Last week alone, Christie collected the endorsements of prominent Democratic power broker Joseph DiVincenzo, a Democratic state senator Brian Stack and five Democratic mayors. All told, the guy who defunded planned parenthood and rejected raising the minimum wage has collected 26 endorsements from elected Democrats, and has been filmed glad handing everyone on the left from President Barack Obama to former President Bill Clinton. There’s the b-roll for the media’s narrative about Buono, whose best media spot was a Hardball segment where the phrase “Dawn Quixote” appeared above her name.
Unfortunately for Buono, it seems Democrats are more interested in fighting among themselves than focusing on taking down Christie. Just last week, the party engaged in a mini-civil war over deciding the new state party chairman. Normally, this decision is given to the party’s gubernatorial candidate, but Buono’s relative weakness as a candidate, and the split in the party between those that want to work with Christie versus those who want to fight him, led to a nasty political battle that ended with Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, a compromise pick, getting the post.
With all this as a backdrop, it’s easy to slam Buono for her low poll numbers, her inability to match Christie’s fundraising prowess and her failed attempts to gain traction. But at the end of the day, she was the only Democrat who had the guts to take on Christie. Sweeney, Codey, even Booker… all chickened out when they looked at Christie’s relative strength at three polls.
But that doesn’t make things any easier for the first female majority leader in the New Jersey State Senate moving forward. Sadly, in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 700,000, it’s going to be a struggle for Buono to score respectable finish in this race, much less have any chance of defeating Christie. Star-Ledger opinion page editor Tom Moran referred to Chris Christie as “Gov. Godzilla,” and I can’t disagree. Does that make Buono Godzuki, Godzilla’s pint-sized sidekick? Unfortunately, no. At least people knew who Godzuki was.
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.