Who’s Up and Who’s Down: An Examination of the Week in NJ Politics with InsiderNJ

The entire dynamic of national politics is beginning to feel more and more like a Rod Steiger-like, back of the taxi cab moral dilemma, and that’s part of the analysis here, which, however, mostly focuses on the world of InsiderNJ.

WHO’S UP

Jack Ciattarelli

The LD16 registered two magnificent, facts-based performances in the Republican Gubernatorial debates, including one last night at the Agnes Varis Studio. With two weeks remaining, the dark horse is surging. He may win, but if Ciattarelli loses on June 6th, one of the questions New Jersey Republicans must ask is whether he – and not Tom MacArthur, saddled, arguably politically fatally by Trump – is the statewide future of the party. The real InsiderNJ contest now is not so much Ciattarelli v. Guadagno but Ciattatreli v. MacArthur. It’s an interesting one – and an important one.

NJTV

The public television network proved a professional and dynamic host of two gubernatorial primary debates, including the Republican showdown last night. Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron had never before moderated a debate – and he proved awesome in his debut. The guy is so good, he provides candidates with real-time tips on impeccable public decorum. That Mexican beer company made the wrong decision when they threw that French actor into the role of Most Interesting Man. They should have just come to Newark. NJ Spotlight did a great job too, as did the entire NJTV cast and crew. So much fun – and informative.

Mikie Sherill and John McKeon

Of course, at some point they’re going to have to figure out who’s going to have the support of the other. But the helicopter pilot and intellectually impressive lawmaker respectively appear pumped with the news of a floundering Frelinghuysen (see below).

Christian Fuscarino and Garden State Equality

What a great party last Friday evening. Lively bipartisan mood. InsiderNJ loved the chance to get a camera into the nook and cranny encounters between Republican and Democratic Party brand names. Great setting too. How can you beat Asbury Park? The executive director was gracious and urbane, and took time to speak with InsiderNJ as he greeted guests in the foyer of the grand Asbury Park Hotel. Thanks also to InsiderNJ columnist Jay Lassiter.

Cory Booker

Veteran Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tamari wrote this great in-depth piece on the junior senator challenge as he tries to amplify his nice guy brand amid the thunderous up-swell of angry Democratic voices. Does Booker lack the requisite rage to build a convincing national counterpoint to the terminally infuriated Trump? We don’t know – but he’s in the conversation.

WHO’S DOWN

Rodney Frelinghuysen

At a time when President Donald Trump’s public flailing means you can’t make any missteps, the veteran Republican Congressman faces an ethics complaint for allegedly violating House rules by criticizing a local bank executive in a fundraising letter to her employer. After years of keeping an exceedingly low profile in the leafy domain of Morris County’s most affluent enclaves, Frelinghuysen suddenly most face a fierce foe: public opinion. Then there’s this.

Kim Guadagno

The fact that she has to go negative against Ciattarelli in the closing days of the campaign proves the GOP Primary is closer than expected. Her debate performance in Newark on Thursday wasn’t horrible, by the reckoning of InsiderNJ. She showed passion. She didn’t have a meltdown. She didn’t self-combust. But Ciattarelli made a convincing case for why the LG lacks leadership skills, noting how she arrived late to the dance on so many significant issues, including the gas tax and Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). Contextualized by Gov. Chris Christie’s fan dance with the national GOP as he pursued the presidency to the detriment of this state, her Grover Norquist-like “no new taxes” pledge seems like pandering more than pragmatic problem-solving.

Donald Trump

What do you say? Where do you look? It’s such an embarrassment. We’re not arguing that he’s guilty or not guilty, but the projection of red-faced, school boy rage at podiums, his continuing victimized tweets, and the incredibly stupid self-pitying comment about no politician ever being treated worse do no constitute leadership. If you’re truly schooled in the manly art of the American grain, it’s the first damn lesson you learn on the athletic field: you don’t whine.

Tom MacArthur

Great guy. Sincere. You’ve got to love the fact that he stood in there, a man, and faced his constituents in Willingboro for hours. That’s doing the job, and we appreciate that, and we appreciate too the 3rd District Congressman’s commitment to an even and respectful tone. But the problem is Trump doesn’t have that approach, and he’s hurting people like MacArthur, a split district occupant. More people are mobilizing potential candidacies against him, including this woman here. Christie has been fond of telling people that MacArthur is the future of the NJGOP, but MacArthur staked his own political future on the MacArthur Amendment, which could prove his undoing if he seeks statewide office.

Luis Quintana

A year before his reelection bid, the likeable at-large Newark City Councilman – former mayor of Brick City – must fight off a suit filed against him by his former legislative aide.

Jimmy Davis

The mayor of Bayonne must dig himself out of an embarrassing headline and allegedly scandalous behavior, broken down this week by the peerless Terence MacDonald of the Jersey Journal. Davis is up for reelection next year, possibly against former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31).

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