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Poll has DiFrancesco slipping in campaign for governor

Originally appeared in The Associated Press, 4/11/01 5:57 PM

A new poll by Quinnipiac University concludes that Acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco is losing ground to his opponents in the race for governor.

Poll spokesman Maurice Carroll said he believed DiFrancesco's image had been tarnished by disclosures about his past real estate dealings and possibly because of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into racial profiling. DiFrancesco became acting governor Jan. 31, a post that should be pushing his name recognition and voter approval upward, "so something else has to be going on," Carroll said.

DiFrancesco continues to lead Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler in the primary race, and Democratic candidate Jim McGreevey continues to lead both Republicans. But Schundler is drawing closer to DiFrancesco while DiFrancesco has lost more ground to McGreevey, according to the poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University of Hamden, Conn.

According to Quinnipiac, DiFrancesco's lead over Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler has dwindled to 12 points, 39-27, in the primary contest. Polls in March and February gave DiFrancesco leads of better than 20 points over Schundler.

The poll also asked registered voters about a potential November matchup with McGreevey. While both Republicans lost ground, Schundler's drop was within the margin of error, which means he may not have actually lost anything at all, while DiFrancesco's drop was larger than the error margin. Quinnipiac did its polling most of last week and through the weekend, talking to 1,145 New Jersey residents who identified themselves as registered voters. The questions about the November matchups had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Questions about the primary were put to 357 registered Republicans. Since the sample group is smaller, the error margin is larger, plus or minus 5 percentage points.

In the matchup polls, DiFrancesco trailed McGreevey 42-33 compared to a gap of only four points in a March 8 poll by the same group talking to roughly the same number of people.

Schundler trailed McGreevey by 17 points, 43-27, compared with a 14 point gap in a March 8 poll. Schundler's fall of 3 percentage points was within the margin of error.

"The bad news for Gov. DiFrancesco is that he's lost ground to Mayor McGreevey in the general election face-off, and Mayor Schundler is creeping up on him in the Republican primary matchup," Carroll said.

The Schundler campaign promptly hailed the outcome as evidence their candidate is becoming better known at the same time DiFrancesco is becoming damaged. "In the last month we have cut 10 points off Donnie's lead," the campaign said in a news release. "As they learn more about our campaign, they are signing on."

Charlie Smith, DiFrancesco's campaign manager, said the change in numbers was insignificant because it was small. "It is very early, and after enduring a month of Bret Schundler's negative campaign, Don DiFrancesco still has very high favorable ratings."

As for the McGreevey poll result, Smith said any Republican would be pleased to close behind a Democrat with statewide name recognition at this early date in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. McGreevey ran for governor in 1997, but DiFrancesco has never appeared on a statewide ballot.

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