In Amato Country, Hugin and MacArthur Tag Team for the GOP (with VIDEO)

Amato, left, and Hugin.

BAYVILLE – Ballparks. Buttermilk pancakes. Barbecues. Garage sales. American flags on the front

A Hugin backer.

porches. Fishing boats on blocks in the gravel drives. Tidy lawns. Scrub pines. Sturdy pickup trucks. Tackle boxes. And “Send in a Marine” t-shirts in the packed pavilion at Veterans Park.

It’s one of those critical places to show up as a Republican running statewide, or running in CD3: the Berkeley Township GOP Picnic, political domain of Mayor Carmen Amato, whose charged-up red-shirted allies this afternoon welcomed Bob Hugin and U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3).

A retired Celgene executive – and former U.S. Marine – Hugin’s challenging U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and needs robust performance in Republican-dominant Ocean. He also wants the help districtwide of MacArthur, who’s looking to fend off a Democratic challenge by Andy Kim of Marlton, a former Iraq director for the National Security Council in the Obama Administration.

“Look, we have a real race going on, a real race,” MacArthur told a crowd feasting on corn on the cob moments after someone killed “Build you up Buttercup” on speakers and Amato and company commanded everyone’s attention.

Monmouth University identifies the 3rd as a statistical dead heat.

MacArthur and Hugin

“The left is stirred up,” said MacArthur,

President Donald J. Trump?

“They hate him, and they hate anyone who works with him and they’ll lie and cheat and steal to stop this president,” said MacArthur, who voted yes on the president’s budget.

Hgin and his backers.

“I’m here to tell you that Ocean County is the key,” the congressman added. “Ocean County – in my race – can overcome anything that might happen. Ocean County delivered 92,000 extra votes for Donald Trump.” It also went with a Chris Christie-saddled Republican Kim Guadagno over Democrat Phil Murphy by 33,000 votes.

MacArthur had a million dollars in the bank in mid-summer, but will to dip into his own considerable fortune to handle the challenger, who over the summer had $1.7 million cash on hand. MacArthur and his allies are annoyed at Kim, the race he’s running, which they say is not only negative but offensively inaccurate.

“How many of you are getting mail about an age tax?” MacArthur wanted to know.

Scattered groans.

“That is just a lie,” the Republican congressman said. “This is the season where there are a lot of lies. Let’s keep America on the right path.”

The pavilion

Hugin beamed in the background.

It’s energized here, or so they say.

“Everyone’s talking about a Blue Wave,” said Waretown Republican diehard Frank Luna “Look at this.”

If they feel backed against the wall here, conversely, one Democratic Party source muttered to InsiderNJ

Byrnes

– those urban areas where Menendez needs to do well don’t appear at the edge of producing monster turnout – at least by the looks of local campaigns and election action. Elizabeth ward races are uncontested. Nothing in Jersey City. Nothing in Newark. A single ward race in Paterson. A good contest in Perth Amboy, Middlesex County’s biggest Democratic-plurality city.

Then again, Trump is detested in many of those quarters, where Menendez allies want him to just clobber Trump.

But here – here it’s different.

A woman with a Trump button on her fishing hat – a fireball of energy – scurried past. Team Amato member Councilman James J. Byrnes – during his turn at the microphone – took a shot at Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3). 

“What about Sweeney?” Brynes griped. “He wants to give licenses to all the Mexicans.”

For his part, MacArthur comfortably acknowledges his willingness to work with the president and readily approves of his policies and the direction he wants to take the country.

The crowd.

In his turn at the microphone, Hugin bashed his Democratic rival.

He’s spent $15 million at least so far, and maxed out to Republican County organizations in hopes of stirring local and countywide energy.

“The people of New Jersey know when things have gone too far,” he said. “Bob Menendez has been corrupt for 35 years. It’s time for a change. He’s really embarrassed us and he’s done so little for us. Twenty-five years in Washington, 16 years with a Democratic president and we’re dead last. No wonder it’s so unaffordable.

“We get the vote out we’re going to win on Nov 6th,” he added.

Two former executives with their own money to spend on their campaigns, Hugin and MacArthur have their own 2021 fan bases in the Republican Party, and hence their own unspoken rivalry. If Hugin exceeds expectations against Menendez, he could emerge as the Republican frontrunner to take on Governor Phil Murphy – but he might have to get past MacArthur, once anointed by Christie as the future of the NJGOP.

But MacArthur has to get by Kim, in a dogfight.

For now, Amato was the hero of the event.

“The man,” Hugin declared, heaping praise on “those at the local level,” amid the hamburgers and hot dogs and flags, in Ocean County, at ground zero of the GOP ground game.

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