Saturday, October 31, 2020

Can A Blue Dog Party Switcher's Pledge Of Undying Loyalty To Trump Help Him Win Re-Election... In Atlantic City, Where Trump Destroyed The Economy?



New Jersey's second district is the only real swing district in the state. Obama won it it a tad over 53% both times he ran and then Trump beat Hillary there 50.6% to 46.0%. The district takes up the entire southern part of the state, including Atlantic City, although most of it suburban and rural. There are 8 counties and parts of counties, but most of the people live in just 4: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester counties.

Frank LoBiondo, a mainstream Republican, was elected to the congressional seat in 1994 and finally retired in 2018 granting the DCCC their long-in-the-tooth and disastrous wish-- a run by the most conservative member of the New Jersey state legislature, NRA darling Jefferson Van Drew. He won but not by a huge margin-- 52.9% to 45.2%-- while losing Salem, Ocean, Camden and Burlington counties. And he spent $1,877,531 while his Republican opponent only managed to spend $299,475. Outside group spent another million-plus on bolstering Van Drew, while his GOP opponent was without allies in that department.

Now, of course, Van Drew is the Republican candidate and the Democrats snagged a moderate Democrat, Amy Kennedy. So far she's outspent him by around a million dollars-- $4,085,926 to $3,028,402 with Pelosi's superPAC kicking in another $5,275,471 and the DCCC $1,165,084 more. In all over $7 million in outside money has been spent on Kennedy's behalf while "just" $5.3 million has been spent by the GOP to defend Van Drew.

CNN reported this week that Van Drew's very public pledge of his "undying support" for Trump has not done him any good with independent voters, who ultimately decide who wins and who loses elections in NJ-02. Rebecca Buck wrote that last December, Van Drew "shocked his colleagues in the Democratic Party when he announced he would become a Republican," blaming the impeachment for his decision. His shocked colleagues would only have to know a little something about Blue Dogs-- dozens of whom have stabbed the party in the back and joined the GOP-- and Van Drew's very Republican voting record to have not been shocked. Just as they shouldn't be if others just like him-- Anthony Brindisi (NY) and Kendra Horn (OK) being prime examples-- when they hop the fence in a couple of years. Buck continued that "Van Drew's detractors point to a more craven political calculation: that he might not have been able to survive his Democratic primary."
The decision culminated in an Oval Office photo-op, where Van Drew pledged his "undying support" to the President. Camera shutters clicked as the two men vigorously shook hands. Eleven months later, those images are at the center of one of the hottest congressional races in the country, with Van Drew seeking reelection for the first time-- and, also for the first time, running as a Republican.

His GOP debut happens to coincide with a daunting year for his new party. But he says his transition is "going fine."

"What's really good about it is, I sort of feel liberated, in that I don't have somebody telling me what you can and can't vote for," Van Drew said, "and that's what really started all of it."

Van Drew's Democratic challenger, Amy Kennedy, is a former schoolteacher born and raised in South Jersey; she is also the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The race is only nominally between Kennedy and Van Drew, however. As in down-ballot contests across the country this year, Trump looms large here-- perhaps even more so because of the public embrace between Van Drew and the President.

"What's happening at the top of the ticket is really defining the down-ballot races," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which recently surveyed the race for New Jersey's Second Congressional District. "It's much, much harder this time around than it has been in the past to establish yourself as an independent voice."

A year ago, a close association with Trump might not have sounded like such a bad thing in South Jersey. The President won this district in 2016 by 5 points; in January, when Trump traveled there for a victory-lap rally with Van Drew, thousands of supporters lined up in the frigid cold. Van Drew, reminiscing on that night, recalled an atmosphere of such exuberance that a match "just would have self-lit."

But that was before Trump stumbled responding to a global pandemic, before millions of Americans lost their jobs, and before 2020 and the election took a sharp turn in another direction.

Now, Trump's endorsement might not be enough, if it's a net positive at all-- and as the President lags in the polls with Election Day nearing, Van Drew, a former mayor and state lawmaker, is trying to remind voters of his own brand, cultivated over two decades in public service, of an independent-minded politician unconcerned with party labels.

"I don't always agree with what the Republican Party is doing or even the President is doing. And the President knew that when I got involved," Van Drew said. "I vote independently. I'm the same Jeff Van Drew I always was."

If some at-risk Republican candidates are hedging their support for Trump, however, Van Drew insists he isn't one of them.

Indeed, Van Drew's campaign website still features a large banner photo of his Oval Office handshake, swallowing up most of the screen. Van Drew was a featured speaker during the Republican National Convention over the summer. And his campaign office windows plainly bear the signs of Van Drew 2.0: not only Van Drew's logo, printed on yard signs this year in a new shade of bright GOP red, but also Trump's. The Van Drew campaign shares the office with Trump's New Jersey operation.

"I don't run away from people," Van Drew said. "...I don't think, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, whether you always agree with the President or not, that you just betray him and walk away. I don't think that's the right thing to do."

Some Democratic voters who supported Van Drew two years ago believe that's exactly what he did to them, by switching parties just one year after they sent him to Washington.

"I felt betrayed actually, that he would do something like that," said David Burr, a Democratic voter who cast his ballot this year for Kennedy. "It just seemed like he wasn't thinking about me, he was thinking about remaining in office."

And it isn't just voters: party leaders, too, felt broadsided by Van Drew's decision. Just days before Van Drew's announcement, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer headlined a lunch reception for the congressman at a townhouse on Capitol Hill. There, according to Hoyer, he praised Van Drew for his party loyalty, despite hailing from a moderate district. Donors wrote checks for as much as $5,000 to Van Drew's reelection campaign; Hoyer, for his part, had already maxed out.
Many of the actual founders of the Blue Dog coalition found it expedient to quit the Democrats and become Republicans, like Nathan Deal (GA), Billy Tauzin (LA), Jimmy Hayes (LA), Michael Parker (MS), Gene Taylor (MS), Ralph Hall (TX), Pete Geren (TX), who came up with the term "Blue Dog," and Greg Laughlin (TX). In leaving the Democratic Party, Van Drew was staying true to what Blue Dogs generally do.

However, many of these Blue Dog party switchers lose subsequent elections (or even GOP primaries). Buck reported that "Van Drew claims to be 'the only person in all of American history who ever went from the majority party to the minority party,' and insists that others who have done it have been rewarded with chairmanships and greater political clout. But that's not true, even in recent political history." She cited Blue Dog scumbag Parker Griffith (AL) who became a Republican in 2009. Alabama Republicans weren't interested and defeated him in a primary.
For Van Drew, at least, a contested GOP primary wasn't an issue after Republicans rolled out the red carpet for him. Along with Trump's endorsement of Van Drew, the President's reelection committee immediately invested $250,000 in advertisements thanking the congressman for switching parties and supporting the President.

But if the GOP welcomed Van Drew with open arms, his district's voters might make another calculation.

"Van Drew has been successful his entire career setting himself up as not the typical politician, not somebody who's beholden to partisan interests," said Murray, of Monmouth. "Yet many voters view his party switch exactly in that vein, that it was an act of political self-preservation."

In a sense, it was. As Van Drew prepared to vote against impeaching the President last year, his campaign team shared with him an internal poll suggesting the stance would doom him in a Democratic primary. Switching to the GOP was hardly a guaranteed return ticket to Washington-- but at least it wouldn't be a certain political death sentence.

...The bigger issue for Van Drew, unquestionably, will be Trump-- and their alliance symbolized by the moment when Van Drew pledged his "undying support, always" to the President.

It was that moment, Kennedy says, that motivated her to run in the first place.

"I had no intention of running for office," Kennedy said. "But it was hearing those words, 'I pledge my undying support to you Mr. President, always,' that was when I felt like this is someone who is absolutely not there to look out for our best interests. And that compelled me to want to run."

Now that moment has become a symbol of the campaign-- and a headache for Van Drew, who like voters in his district has seen his sound bite played and replayed "over and over and over again," by his count, in attack ads this year.

During CNN's interview this week, we asked Van Drew if he regretted those words that have followed him around these months and might now cost him reelection.

"I think the words didn't explain as well what I exactly felt," Van Drew conceded. "It's not undying support that, whatever you say I'm going to do, or undying support, I agree with whatever you say. It was undying support for the presidency, for the idea of the greatness of America, for a friendship, but not necessarily that I'm going to agree with everything."

But it's unclear if will voters understand what he meant versus what he said.

"I think voters understand that when you're in the Oval Office and you're having a very exciting day and you're making a little piece of history," Van Drew said, "that sometimes we all say things."

A few minutes later, after our conversation had moved on, Van Drew stopped mid-sentence to rephrase something-- and then, recognizing the humor of it, he cut himself off again. Under his mask, he might have allowed a smile.

"See how your words can come out wrong?" he said, stabbing the air playfully, laying his Jersey accent on thick. "Well, I got a chance to fix it this time."
Kennedy isn't a Blue Dog, but has been endorsed by the New Dems, basically just as bad and more firmly tied to Wall Street. Progressives have no candidate to vote for Tuesday, though many are just going to hold their noses and vote for Kennedy to express their antipathy for Van Drew.

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At 8:50 PM, Blogger TrumanTown said...

"I had no intention of running for office," Kennedy said. I CALL BULLSHIT ON THIS

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There it is: "hold their noses and vote for..." the fascist party instead of the nazi party.

wondering when DWT will make the call...

and if they don't, does it repudiate their support for the blue?

At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reportedly, Moses led the escaped slaves of Egypt around the desert for 40 year.

40 years ago, the "Democrats" followed a false profit promising to deliver the leaderless tribes of the American corporate state to a "shining city on a hill" that the "Democrats could attempt to take over from within using Republican political strategies.

We now can contrast and compare these strategies for effectiveness and achievement of goals.


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