By David Cruz
On the day before Election Day, turnout is the paramount concern in both camps. Democrat Cory Booker started his day talking to union members in Little Falls, a group he hopes will serve as get out the vote foot soldiers tomorrow. Relaxing on his campaign bus between stops, and up now by anywhere from 10 to 22 points depending on the poll, Booker said any talk of campaign missteps — and there has been some — is old news.
“You are not going to get that nod from me, because the reality is we put a plan together,” insisted Booker. “We’ve been working our plan. All the measures of success we have and use have been coming back better than we anticipated.”
When it comes to turnout, Republican Steve Lonegan would appear to have the bigger hill to climb. The GOP is outnumbered in New Jersey by more than half a million, and if the polls are right, and casual voters are largely ignoring this race, Lonegan will need a strong turnout from his base — conservative Republicans, on whom he’s been concentrating in the final days.
“When you grow government and make it even bigger and more intrusive, you lose your freedoms,” Lonegan said at a campaign stop in Jersey City.
Lonegan’s tenacious campaign has surprised many pundits who saw him as something of a sacrificial lamb. Instead, he’s been more of a bull in a china shop, pounding Booker on his celebrity status and on his record in Newark.
“Two people were shot to death in the streets of Newark last night. Unemployment in Newark has gone from eight to 14 percent in Newark under Cory Booker. High school dropout rates are between 50 and 70 percent under Cory Booker. Crime is on the rise. Robberies are at an all time high. Mr. Booker has failed Newark. That’s extreme,” Lonegan said.
Extreme has become the hashtag of this campaign and Booker said it’s Lonegan whose philosophical views are on the fringe for New Jersey.
“He’s not even hiding from his most extreme views,” said Booker. “Gay and lesbian couples, not only can they not get married, they can’t even adopt, getting rid of abortion even in the case of rape and incest. For us, the more people focus in on him, the better for us.”
There is a sense today that this race has stabilized, that Booker has been much more engaged in the final week and that Lonegan’s refusal to pivot toward the center has not helped him. And then there’s the popular Republican governor who promised his enthusiastic support.
“This will not be the only time that Steve Lonegan and I will be together between now and Oct. 16,” Gov. Chris Christie said in August.
Total number of campaign appearances together since that day? Zero.
In a campaign where the candidates agree on very little, both say this election is a referendum on the current state of our national politics, which may be a lot to ask from a race where maybe 20 percent of voters are likely to turn out.