Democrats hoping to take control of Congress in November’s midterm election are eyeing five key congressional seats in New Jersey currently held by Republicans. How are Republicans fighting to keep those seats from flipping? State Republican Party Chair Doug Steinhardt joins Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron.
Aron: Mr. Chairman, Monmouth University came out with a poll this week that had Congressman Thomas MacArthur leading his Democratic challenger Andy Kim by just one percentage point. Is that alarming?
Steinhardt: No, no. Look, I think everyone respects Patrick Murray for his talents, for his service. But, I think there are some elements of that poll that are misleading. First of all, you have to take into consideration the poll has MacArthur winning 47 percent of the vote in the Republican stronghold of Ocean County and winning by a 15-point margin. Now, you have to go back decades, in fact, I don’t know if the Republicans ever performed that poorly in the Ocean County portion of that congressional district. But, Trump and Guadagno both lost statewide, but they both won that section of that congressional district by more than 63 percent of the vote. Second, the model to which you are referring — the one that has MacArthur at 41 percent and Kim at 40 percent — builds off of a voter base, where I believe it was newly elected voters and people who have voted in an election since 2010, and Murray concludes that that represents roughly 83 percent of the voting population down there. You have to go back decades to find an election — a midterm election — where 83 percent of the people voted in that district.
Aron: Let’s talk about the 7th Congressional District, Leonard Lance against Tom Malinowski. You took a shot against Malinowski this week over a 10-year-old incident at Human Rights Watch, where someone on his staff was collecting Nazi memorabilia, and you say Malinowski that didn’t criticize him harshly enough. How is that relevant to this election?
Steinhardt: Well, I think everybody’s views are always relevant. I think he referred to him as a student of history, if I’m not mistaken. You know, Leonard Lance has a long history of voter service, of constituent service in that district. He’s well-respected, he’s in tune with what his constituents ask for. So, you know, I think it’s relevant when you’re comparing candidate-to-candidate. And Leonard Lance has a long history of service to his constituents in his congressional district.
Aron: Another district you’re defending is 11, where Mikie Sherrill is the Democrat nominee. Assemblyman Jay Webber is your candidate, running for Rodney Frelinghuysen’s seat. How does that look?
Steinhardt: I think it looks good. Look, Jay Webber has a long history of conservative service in that district. Mikie Sherrill is new to the scene. She comes across as just a rubber stamp for the Nancy Pelosi branch of the Democrat party. But, Jay has been in Trenton for a long time. He’s got a strong voting record, and I think he’s the kind of person that Washington needs to go and make sure that New Jersey’s interests are being taken care of.
Aron: She’s quite a phenomenon. She out-raised him in the first reporting period, by 12, 13 to one. But, she’s a Nancy Pelosi Democrat, you say?
Steinhardt: That’s my take on the race. She seems to have aligned herself. Look, the way I think politics are in New Jersey these days — that liberal faction of the Democratic party is forcing candidates to move further and further left, and that’s exactly what she’s doing. Jay gets to stay in his path, a path that he’s established for a long time with his voting record in Trenton. He doesn’t have to waver.
Aron: Is Donald Trump leading the country well?
Steinhardt: Donald Trump is doing a good job. You have to look at the economy in general. Look, the stock market is at record highs, the gross domestic product growth is stronger than it’s been in years. Wages are up, employment is down. That’s a great record for anyone to run on in this country.
Aron: At the state level, Senate President Sweeney had a task force that made a whole raft of recommendations about reforming government. You weighed in on that. What do you think of the Sweeney task force recommendations?
Steinhardt: Look, the task force was made up of three Republican senators — Addiego, Bucco and Oroho. Two Democratic senators. And they’ve essentially adopted what’s been the Republican mantra for decades, which is, “government’s too big.” We need to get back to our common sense and fiscally responsible roots. That’s exactly what that committee recommends.
Aron: You said in a press release that the Democrats now need to channel their inner Republican.
Steinhardt: I did.
Aron: Are you endorsing that set of recommendations?
Steinhardt: I am. I don’t know that they go far enough, but we’re absolutely endorsing that set of recommendations.
Aron: And, who’s the leader in Trenton, from your vantage point? Who speaks for the Democrats in Trenton?
Steinhardt: Who speaks for the Democrats?
Aron: I’m sorry, for the Republicans.
Steinhardt: Yeah, I’m not sure who’s speaking for the Democrats right now. They have a great divide going on in the Democratic side. We have a great group of Republican leaders. I’m happy to step in on the part of the NJ GOP. Sen. Kean is doing a wonderful job on behalf of the Senate minority and Assemblyman Bramnick is doing a good job on behalf of the Assembly minority.
Aron: State Republican Chairman Doug Steinhardt. Thanks for coming in.
Steinhardt: Thanks for having me.