About 50 volunteers were stuffing envelopes and making phone calls at the Tom Malinowski headquarters in Somerville Wednesday.
“There is incredible enthusiasm in the district like nothing we’ve ever seen in the 7th District before,” Malinowski said.
Congressman Leonard Lance spoke to a Rotary Club luncheon then met us at his campaign headquarters in Westfield.
“The crowds are excellent and we have been campaigning. We had a debate this morning on the radio outside Hackettstown, New Jersey on a local radio station,” Lance said.
The new poll from Monmouth University has the race at Malinowski 47 percent to Lance 44 percent, with a margin of error of that makes it a statistical dead heat.
“We have polled ourselves and we’re ahead in our polls,” Lance said. “This is a very competitive race and I’m campaigning as hard as I can because I think my views are the views of the overwhelming majority of the residents of this district.”
“All the polls have said the same thing. It’s a very close race and we’re in a very good position to make a big statement for our district and for New Jersey,” Malinowski said.
We asked what their closing arguments are.
“I have been a lifelong resident of this district. I know the district like the back of my hand and my views of the major issues confronting the nation — health care, taxes, immigration, the international situation — are the views of the district,” Lance said.
“The closing message is that we need to elect a Congress that’s going to stand up for New Jersey because we haven’t actually gotten a fair shake in Washington for a long time and we need to elect a Congress that’s going to exercise checks and balances at a crazy, dangerous, mixed-up time in our country’s political history,” Malinowski said.
With right-wing violence in the headlines — the synagogue shootings, the pipe bombs — we wondered what impact that might have on who comes out to the polls.
“I’m uncomfortable making a political commentary about a crime like what happened in Pittsburgh and talking about whether it plays well or badly for one side or another,” Malinowski said. “We do think that though there are some very disturbing things happening in our country right now with the president basically promoting crack pot conspiracy theories to divide and scare the American people.”
“We have to lower our shouting and screaming. I’ve always engaged in respect and civility. I do not favor shouting and screaming in any way, shape or form,” Lance said.
Some Democrats are saying President Donald Trump’s sharp rhetoric is part of the equation.
“Yes I’m saying the president of the United States is responsible for the tone of discourse. Every president is responsible for setting the tone,” said Malinowski.
“I lead by example in this area and I wish that more people would be as respectful as I try to be,” Lance said.
The Monmouth poll is virtually unchanged from the last one in September. Both men have hope.
“We’re positive and I’m optimistic we’re going to win. This will be a competitive race, but I’ve been in competitive races before,” Lance said.
“I think we’re going to have the highest turnout in a midterm election in recent New Jersey history,” Malinowski said. “And I think New Jersey’s going to make a powerful statement, not just for ourselves, but for the country.”
For Lance, it’s the toughest race ever. For Malinowski, it’s a chance to score an upset.