If Gov. Jon Corzine wins a second term next Tuesday, New Jersey voters will have two places to thank: Goldman Sachs and Chris Daggett campaign headquarters.
Goldman Sachs is where Corzine made most of the astonishing $24 million he has plowed into his re-election campaign (compared with the $9 million spent by his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie).
And Daggett is the third-party candidate who's never been higher then 20 percent in the polls but whose candidacy may very well determine the outcome of the race.
Christie has run a less than perfect campaign, but should Corzine eke out a win, credit must go to his money and to Daggett. Why? For the simple reason that the case against Corzine is so overwhelming.
New Jersey residents have the highest state and local tax burden in the country. They pay the highest property taxes in the country. According to the Tax Foundation, New Jersey has the worst climate for business of any state in the nation. So, not surprisingly, it has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
Credit for much of this high-taxing, high-spending, job-repelling record goes to Corzine. As governor, he raised the state sales tax by 16 percent. He eliminated property tax rebates for middle class New Jersey homeowners. He has raised taxes on top wage earners, alcohol, cigarettes and businesses and he's not showing any signs of stopping. His latest proposal would raise taxes on gasoline.
On top of his abysmal record on taxes, Corzine has presided over an era of public corruption that is remarkable even for New Jersey. He unapologetically gave more than $400,000 of his own Wall Street money to a Bergen County Democratic machine boss who was convicted on federal felony corruption charges just this month.
And this summer, an FBI bribery sting that resulted in the arrest of no fewer than 44 state officials also included a raid on a member of Corzine's Cabinet. The result is, in a state that President Obama won by 57-42, the race for governor is too close to call.
Corzine has tried valiantly to change the subject by using his millions to unleash a vicious and dishonest media attack campaign on Christie. Corzine's high-priced mud slinging hasn't improved his standing in the polls much, but it has hurt Christie. And thanks to the presence of third-party candidate Daggett, the anti-Corzine vote is now dangerously split.
On the merits, Daggett is a poor alternative to Christie for frustrated New Jersey voters. Christie is a respected former federal prosecutor who had the guts and the principle to do what Corzine has never done: Take on the culture of corruption in New Jersey politics. He won convictions or guilty pleas from more than 130 public officials--both Republican and Democrat--without a single loss.
Daggett, on the other hand, has campaigned on a series of pie-in-the-sky promises that sound good until you look at the details. For instance, he's promised to lower property taxes but would "pay for it" by raising other taxes. And he's cynically said that Christie can't win the race, publicly asserting, "It's either going to be Jon Corzine or me."
Thanks to his own candidacy, Daggett may well be right--about Corzine, that is.
In these waning days of the campaign, Corzine is bringing in the Democratic Party's heavyweights to vouch for him. Former President Clinton was in the Garden State this week and President Obama will campaign for Corzine this Sunday.
Democratic strategists claim that a victory for Corzine in New Jersey will be a vindication of Obama and the Democrats' big government agenda, including health care.
It won't. If anything pulls Corzine across the finish line next week, it won't be Barack Obama and government-run health care. It will be Wall Street money and Chris Daggett.
Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI.