SOMERVILLE NJ - It wasn't supposed to go this way. The Republican primary for governor was supposed to be a cakewalk for Lt. Governor Kim Guadango. The state's first Lt. Governor and the first woman to serve as Monmouth County Sheriff has strong relationships with Republicans in all 21 counties, and is well-known among Garden State GOPers.
Where once there was a cakewalk, there is now a horse race.
The latest poll from the independent Quinnipiac University polling group "clearly demonstrates that Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno's campaign has stalled while Jack Ciattarelli is gaining momentum," according to a polling memorandum prepared for the Ciattarelli campaign by Brock McClearly of Harper Polling. On March 15, the same poll found Ciattarelli 25 points behind Guadango.
No longer. The May 3, poll finds Ciattarelli 11 points behind Guadagno. That's a net gain of 14 points in six weeks for the former Somerset County freeholder.
Somerset County Republican Chairman Al Gaburo has been one of Ciattarelli's strongest supporters. When asked to comment on the poll, Gaburo responded with his trademark confidence and sense of humor: "Objects in the rearview mirror are much closer than they appear."
How did Ciattarelli get into a position in which the Lt.Governor could even see him in the rearview mirror?
First, Chairman Gaburo leads a strong campaign team, one that has been compared to the storied 1951 Giants of Bobby Thompson's famous walk-off homerun. Second, the Ciattarelli campaign enjoyed a successful convention season, winning the endorsements of seven county Republican organizations, an unusually high number for a challenger. Third, Ciattarelli raised enough campaign donations to appear in the televised debates, and to qualify for matching funds.
This week the challenger is on television with his first campaign advertisement (see video), and will debate Guadagno on television on Tuesday in the first of two televised debates. Insiders and astute observers believe that a side-by-side appearance with Guadagno favors Ciattarelli.
Objects in the mirror are much closer than they appear.