After three consecutive posts, is it still “New” Jersey?”
John Tabin referenced me as an acolyte of the church of Lautenberg victory. He’s right. I think the Democrats have this race quite nearly in the bag. Here’s why:
– As Teixiera and Judis write in today’s Times op-ed, New Jersey has been trending left since the 1980s. Forrester has to portray himself as an ultra-moderate to Lautenberg’s machine liberalism – possible, but he hasn’t done so yet.
– Forrester’s base is pathetically tiny. Only 19 percent of NJers are registered Republicans. Twenty-five percent are Democrats and most of the rest are independents. So Lautenberg only needs 48 percent of independents to go over the top, and he’s almost there.
– Blacks make up 13 percent of NJ’s population and never less than 11 of its votes. According to the AP, Jon Corzine got 90 percent of the black vote in 2000; Torricelli got 87 percent in 1996; I couldn’t find the breakdowns for Lautenberg’s 1994 victory, but he won heavily black Essex, Hudson, and Camden with a 120,000 vote plurality. In each election, a 50 percent drop in black turnout would have elected the Republican. There is no reason to believe that, in this first Senate election presided over by a Democratic governor since 1990, black turnout will dip.
– Republicans don’t win New Jersey elections. Democrats lose them. The GOP has come out ahead in only two statewide elections since 1990. Respectively: (I’m ignoring offices like treasurer – those elections turn on different issues)
– – In 1993, Christine Whitman defeated Gov. Jim Florio by 16,000 votes. At the time, Florio was one of most unpopular governors in America – he started the year with a less than 30 percent approval rating thanks to his 1990 tax hike. That February, a poll revealed 51 percent of voters would not re-elect him. In June, that had dropped to 46 percent – but Whitman was polling at 43. Florio raced to a 21-point lead by September, but Whitman overcame him with an ad blitz that flogged the tax hike until Florio’s negatives finally bore fruit. In the end, Whitman’s 49 percent was still dwarfed by the governor’s unpopularity.
– – Whitman was re-elected in 1997 over now-Gov. Jim McGreevy by 25,000, hampered by a 5 percent protest vote for Libertarian Murray Sabrin and McGreevey’s emphasis on … well … auto-insurance premiums.
– Democratic pressure to “keep the Senate” is very real, and the state party will play it like a kid with a new xylophone. In 2000, liberal pessimism and disgust for Corzine’s spending resulted in a 2 percent Green party vote. This year’s Green is a cartoonist running again on the money issue – a non-starter. The Green vote will drop and the Libertarian vote will hang tight, which is no good for the GOP.
– Lautenberg STILL has better name recognition then Forrester (90 percent to 72 percent) and a lower unfavorable rating (26 percent to 28). Forrester has only a month to tar him.
So, call me pessimistic but I see an avalanche of disadvantages for Forrester. My immediate predition – Lautenberg 51, Forrester 45, others 4.