Corzine Campaign Looking Inept with Lt. Gov Search

Governor Jon Corzine is in the battle of his life to win a second term as Governor of New Jersey. A sinking economy, elimination of property tax rebates, a proposed program to add new tolls that went nowhere and a high disapproval rating have placed him 6-10 points behind in his race against Republican Chris Christie.  However, the inept way that his campaign has been addressing the selection of a lieutenant governor to run with him is becoming the albatross that may ultimately sink his reelection chances.

For the past week, the name of Randal Pinkett, the winner of season four of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” has been floated out as a potential running mate for Corzine, much to the dismay of many Democrats.  Pinkett, an African-American businessman, with no political experience except co-chairing Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s transition team, first had his name tossed out a little more than a week ago.  Many thought he would be chosen prior to President Obama’s appearance with the Governor at a campaign rally in Holmdel last Thursday. 

When his name began circulating, a number of newspaper editorial boards shot it down as nothing more than a stunt.  Then, earlier this week, Chris Christie, the former prosecutor, named Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno as his running mate. 

Selections for lieutenant governor must be in by next Monday. For the first time, the state will have a lieutenant governor, making this a significant choice by the candidates.

Just today, an Associated Press story hit quoting Randal Pinkett saying he would consider running for the position if an offer was made by Governor Corzine.  Pinkett is holding a press conference in Newark today where he is expected to announce that he will not be a candidate for statewide office.

The fact that this continued to be out there has done nothing but place a huge question mark on the decision-making of the Governor and his team.  There is such a thing as floating out a name to the media to gauge reaction.  However, the negatives associated with such a choice and the reaction to the initial leak, should have been enough evidence to put the issue to bed rather than have it stoked for a second week.

Such speculation also placed an undue burden on Mr. Pinkett, who had to have his name unfairly placed out there.  Whether he was qualified or not to be lieutenant governor,  he should not have been used to test the waters.

What developed over the past two weeks is a selection process that turned circus-like with no ring-leader to give it direction. The impression given has been of a campaign without a message or communications strategy in regards to this issue.

Whether you’re a CEO of a company, spokesperson for a brand or Governor of a state, the way you communicate matters, especially when making major decisions.  What the Corzine communications team  allowed to happen, is for their candidate to appear to be acting in desperation mode, gripping at straws to find a candidate that can create the buzz needed to overcome the polls. 

When the Governor finally makes his decision on a lieutenant governor candidate, that person may be diminished in the eyes of the media and the voters.   Instead of a well-thought out decision, it may appear to be a last second choice, for if that individual was the best choice, then it should have been made way before the Pinkett scenario was allowed to take form.

There’s no question the Corzine communications team lost control of the message. How they recover will determine whether their candidate returns to Trenton or not.

 

Tom Cosentino

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