House Races in New Jersey: An Update

     There is no Governor’s race, nor is any Senate seat up for re-election.  In 2012, the seat of Robert Menendez will be available.  He is currently head of the Democrat’s Senatorial efforts and there has been criticism of his efforts by some.  His standing in the Democratic Party may be judged by his performance in this year’s Senatorial cycle.  In the interim, Republicans in New Jersey need to start recruiting a possible opponent to him in the 2012 election. 

      In order to win statewide office in New Jersey as a Republican, one has to be sufficiently moderate.  Basically, current Governor Chris Christie, despite being the current darling of the Republican Party, is sufficiently moderate.  He is not the right wing ideologue many make him to be.  Yes, he has taken on the teacher’s and public employee’s unions in Jersey, but that is based more on economic reality than some animus against the educational establishment or organized labor.  He realizes that he needs the necessary votes, support, and backing of Democrats, but not necessarily the more liberal, knee-jerk ones.  And that is the real beauty of Christie’s appeal- the fact that the he will take anyone one and sometimes with brutal truthfulness.  It would be great to see Christie take on in debate the greatest bloviator or our times- Barack Obama.  But, getting back to Christie’s moderation, one needs to go back to his campaign and see how he feels about some recent national issues.  For example, he has not exactly embraced Obamacare nor has he distanced himself from it.  The same can be said for immigration policy and notice how he avoided the lightning rod state of Arizona recently.  So, while many on the right, and especially here at Redstate, are openly endorsing Christie for national office, he is not the knee jerk conservative many make him to be.

       In Congress, there are eight Democrats and five Republicans.  That is not expected to change.  All incumbents, regardless of party, should win re-election.  But, reapportionment in the 2012 election should definitely change the dynamic especially as the population has drifted from the urban areas into traditional Republican strongholds like Ocean, Monmouth, and Burlington counties.  Additionally, due to the flight of the overall population out of Jersey, the state may actually lose a seat in Congress.  Most of the interest is in the central and southern parts of the state.  The 2nd District is represented by Frank LoBiondo and has been since 1993.  This district is rated +1 Democratic on the Cook PVI, yet LoBiondo has never, except his initial campaign, gotten less than 60% of the vote.  Part of the reason is that the Democratic Party, except in the Atlantic County part of his district, is particularly strong and they fail to develop and run viable candidates.  The same is true this year.  However, LoBiondo needs to be aware that the demographics in the district are changing as it becomes more ethnically diverse, especially with an influx of Hispanics.

     Another interesting district is the 4th, currently occupied by Republican Christopher Smith.  Although staunchly pro-life, he is considered fairly moderate and may be a decent challenger to Menendez in 2012.  Another possible candidate in 2012 could be Scott Garrett out of the 5th district.  This guy is a monetary and budget policy wonk, somewhat in the mold of Paul Ryan.  However, his staunch conservative voting record could be viewed as a liability in a state like New Jersey in runs for statewide office.

     In the Fourth District, incumbent Democrat Frank Pallone is up against Anna Little, a local TEA Party-backed Republican.  Although Pallone should win this district, largely based upon the urban vote around New Brunswick and Rutgers University, this will be viewed as a litmus test of TEA Party strength in the Garden State.  Pallone has voted for all four of Obama’s major initiatives, a fact that Anna Little is stressing, to little avail, in the district.  Finally, most eyes this Election Day will be on the Third District where first term Congressman John Adler takes on Republican challenger John Runyan.  This district stretches from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean, encompassing some of the more conservative sections of Burlington County, Cherry Hill in Camden County, and a strip of Ocean County before endng and engulfing all of Long Beach Island. 

      In 2008, Adler barely beat Chris Myers for the seat despite outspending and fundraising Myers on a scale of about 7-1.  Thus far in Congress, when it comes to the top 4 Obama initiatives, he has sided with the Democrats on three of them (cap and trade, Wall Street bill, stimulus), while voting against Obamacare.  Additionally, he voted against TARP.  Many vote tracking concerns rank Adler in the Top Ten Centrist Congressmen.  This shold give the Adler the cover credentials to maintain this seat.  Runyan has only the outsider label to his favor- he is a former NHL player.  But when push comes to shove, Adler should prevail (he leads by 6 points in the polls). 

      In conclusion, yes, the election of Chris Christie should have been a wake-up call to Obama.  But let’s keep that election in perspective.  It was not a referndum on Obama like the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts was.  The Christie victory was predicated less on a distaste for Obama’s policies than it was for an extreme distaste for Jon Corzine.  Secondly, to win statewide office in Jersey, you have to basically be a moderate.  Single-issue idealogues have no chance.  Still, there are Republicans who meet that criteria to give Menendez fits in 2012.  For Christie, it was a perfect storm of events that allowed him to defeat Corzine.  He has vindicated himself since and stands on his own now.  Third, there will no change in the Congressional delegation this year, but that could change in 2012 with reapportionment with the possible loss of a seat.  New Jersey, despite it’s Governor, remains a blue state and that is not expected to change.