Monday, November 01, 2010

A Tale of NJ Take-Over Targets: NJ 3rd, 12th & 6th CDs:
Contrasting Races Are the Best GOP Hopes in NJ

11/02/2010 -- There are now unmistakable signs that at least two and possibly three current Democrat Congressional districts are in play here in hitherto blue New Jersey -- the NJ 3rd, the NJ 12 th and the NJ 6th -- are now very much up for grabs, raising Republican hopes for possible victories by Jon Runyan in the 3rd, Scott Sipprelle in the 12th and feisty Anna Little in the 6th.

All three are currently Democrat-held districts that have been Republican targets this year. But until recently, two of them had been feared by some Republicans as likely to end up being Democrat holds. The formerly Republican 3rd, however, has smelled vulnerable all season.

Republican Jon Runyan was tied or ahead in the last polls there, and he looks like a winner.

While all three of those district races are now suddenly very much in play, the contrast in the character and tone of the races could not be more stark.

For some time, the race in the 12th between Scott Sipprelle and Rush Holt had come across as a polite-fest, not a bumbling Alphonse and Gaston style exchange mind you, but a gentlemanly exchange nevertheless, with the two candidates publicly agreeing to strongly disagree.

There had not been any real heavy or nuclear exchanges at all.

But one of the late breaking characteristics of the race has been a sudden nasty and shrill series of attacks by the hitherto, shall we say blasé Mr. Holt.

In one nasty attack, and utterly lacking a single shread of evidence, Holt accused Mr. Sipprelle of having somehow exerted influence to reduce his property taxes on his Princeton home. The tax assessor heatedly and emphatically reputiated the false charge in a public statement to the press.

There were other baseless attacks launched recently by Holt as well. Common sense suggests those can only have been the result of internal Democrat polls that showed that Sipprelle was right on his ass.

From what I could see, the real strength of the Sipprellle campaign from the beginning has been under the radar. The organization of the campaign has been in their phone bank system, a very highly sophisticated system geared toward targeting soft Ds and independents. The gains have been steady and nearly invisible until recently when the first public poll, a Monmouth poll, showed the two of them only 5 points apart. Polls are somewhat questionable, incidentally, in heavily gerrymandered districts like the NJ 12th CD. The district contains a considerable number of split municipalities in several counties. Because of that, it is very hard to get an accurate read in poll calls going into a municipality.

The South Jersey race for the 3rd District, however, recently erupted into quite a raucus affair, particularly with credible charges of fraud aimed at Democrat, John Adler surrounding the mysterious origins of the candidacy of a bogus Tea Party candidate in the district, one Peter DeStefano. He had no connection to any Tea Party group, and it has recently been revealed that he is bankrupt.

The Star-Ledger, the state's main daily paper had long suspected that Democrat John Adler's campaign underwrote DeStefano from the start in an attempt to siphon a small but sufficient percentage of conservative votes away from Republican challenger Jon Runyan, a sleazy attempt to give Adler the edge in the final tally. The Camden Courier Post, however, got the story several weeks back, both documenting and, via unnamed Democrat operatives, alleging the active promotion and involvement of Adler campaign officials, the Camden County Democrat organization, and even the DCCC, in the creation of the fake Tea Party candidate.

Since then Adler has continued to deny any connection, all credible evidence to the contrary notwithstanding! The purpose of the phony candidacy, according to the paper, was to draw 5% of the vote away from the personally popular Runyan, thus giving Adler a better shot at winning.

Two major newspapers -- The Asbury Park Press and the state's top circulation, Star-Ledger -- have each published editorials openly questioning the credibility of Mr. Adler's denials, and in the case of the Star-Ledger, calling for an investigation by the FEC of allegations the Adler campaign has contributed to the DeDtefano effort, without reporting the contributions on their own filings.

Adler's opponent, Republican Jon Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman, has been all over the story, demanding that the Congressman 'fess up and come clean.

The peculiar make-up of the 3rd District should also add to the woes of the Adler count, especially given the publicity of this scandal. Once held by retired former Congressman Jim Saxton, the 3rd Distract currently contains the suburban community of Cherry Hill, the only Camden county municipality in the District, and which accounts for only approximately 20 percent of the population of the District. It is also the home base of Congressman Adler. Camden County is also the home territory of Camden's political boss of bosses, George Norcross. The rest of the district is split between generally more conservative-leaning communities in Burlington and Ocean counties.

While Norcross has succeeded in recent years in pushing his political weight around in the other counties of South Jersey, the heavy exposure of this scandal will likely turn off independent voters and even some Democrats, especially in the two more dominant counties.

In another NJ district -- the previously solid Democrat NJ 6th District -- Republican Anna Little is also drawing closer than usual attention in her challenge of long time Democrat incumbent, Frank Pallone. But as of a few weeks ago, she still trailed the congressman by 12 points according to a Monmouth University poll. Suddenly, the same poll showed her well within striking distance, and her supporters went into overdrive.

The sprawling 12th District, which contains greater or lesser portions of five New Jersey counties, is currently represented by long-term Congressman Rush Holt, tagged by some as the most liberal congressman in the country. He is being challenged this year by Princeton native, Scott Sipprelle, an investment banker who is partially self-funding his campaign. As we noted, it has been a relatively quiet, with both campaigns working small events and the phones to shore up their support. One publicly attended debate was held at Rider University in Lawrence Twp. on the 14th, and another was held in East Brusnwick on the 18th.

A third exchange involve a taped appearance on New Jersey Network’s program, "On the Record," was aired over the October 30th 31st weekend, just prior to today's election.

Until a few weeks ago, the course of that race was a mystery to all but very close insiders, as no public polls had surfaced in the media. The Monmouth University poll cited above, and posted on Real Clear Politics, showed the previously unknown (in political circles) Scott Sipprelle to be within 5 points of Holt. That has to have come as a jolt to Democrats in general, and to Congressman Holt in particular. A more recent poll showed the race to be an 8 point affair, BUT with Holt still stuck 51%.

In addition, we examined the most recent election result numbers from the 12th District, ones from last year's gubernatorial race (in which Chris Christie upset then-Democrat governor Jon Corzine). Those results were not published at RCP, but they reveal some of the specific vulnerabilities that Holt has in certain key areas and communities within the 12th District.

The heart of the district, especially from the Democrat perspective, is in several Middlesex County towns, ones in which Holt normally prevails rather easily.

But last year, in his surprise victory over incumbent Governor Jon Corzine, Chris Christie won the plurality of votes in those Middlesex towns in the 12th CD.

Chris Christie garnered just over 52% of that vote, to a paltry 41.34% for Corzine. Independent Chris Daggett got 6.3% of the Middleses vote from towns within the 12th CD. And, Christie won the entire Middlesex County vote as well.

The bookends of the 12th District are a Monmouth county portion, coming to within a block of the Atlantic Ocean and a smaller Hunterdon County portion, with several towns along the historic Delaware River, both of which could do well for the Republican candidate this year.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the Mercer County portion will more than likely will end up in the Democrat column, although Scott Sipprelle resides in Princeton, which is in Mercer County. Holt is also from Mercer (Hopewell). And Sipprelle has making some inroads there that have to have Holt on edge -- like securing the enthusiastic endorsement of the City Council President of the City of Trenton, a Democrat!

So, I'm going out on a limb here and, in addition to calling the 3rd for Runyan, I'm calling the 12th for Sipprelle. The reason is his incredible organization. Today he will have a great turnout effort going for him, and the mood her in Jersey is simply anti-incumbent.

Finally, I'm going to say that Anna Little takes out Frank Pallone. The enthusiam has just been too strong in the past few weeks, and the polls have shown a strong last second move toward her and away from him.

Pallone earlier on claimed that the Obamacare Bill was really his bill. He actually said, "This is not Obama’s bill. This isn’t Nancy Pelosi’s bill. This is MY bill."

That was obviously stupid and gratuitous. Thereafter, of course, someone on his staff apparently told him to back off, and he went silent about it. But Anna Little has never let him off the hook, repeatedly reminding voters of his claims to being the father of Obamacare.

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