The Jay Webber congressional campaign clearly likes looking on the bright side.
Monmouth University recently released a poll on the race between Webber and Democrat Mikie Sherrill in District 11. As the first public poll in what truly is a race of national political interest, it garnered a fair amount of attention.
Here’s the gist of what it said.
Monmouth used three different models in hopes of gauging not only the views of registered voters, but also a so-called “surge” of Democratic voters. More engaged, and therefore, more active voters on the left have sparked Democratic wins over the last few months in such disparate places as Alabama and suburban Pittsburgh.
In all three models, Sherrill was leading Webber by two, four or six points, all of which were within the margins of error, according to the poll.
So while Sherrill is “leading” in all models, the race four months before election day is essentially tied.
Now by any measure, this seems like good news for the Democrats. They are tied in a district that Republican Rodney P. Frelinghuysen won consistently by about 20 points.
The Webber campaign sees things differently.
In a message distributed last week by the Morris County Republican Committee, Phil Valenziano, Webber’s campaign manager, said the poll had “very positive news for Team Webber.”
He took heart from the poll showing that by 2 percentage points, respondents want Republicans, not Democrats, to control Congress. Valenziano also noted that while Sherrill is garnering support from 92 percent of Democrats, Webber, who survived a tough primary, gets support from only 78 percent of Republicans.
“That means we have much more room for growth than our opponent,” he said.
The message also pointed out that according to the poll, President Trump’s approval rating in the district is 47 percent, which is above the national average.
All these are fair points.
But still, New Jersey’s 11th congressional district long has been a very dependable GOP redoubt.
Optimism is wonderful, but it’s hard objectively to see this poll as such good news for Webber. He’s tied at best in a traditional Republican district.
And what should concern the GOP is that the poll showed Democrats more enthusiastic about the district race by nearly 20 points – 67 to 48. Energized people tend to vote.
Valenziano countered with the observation that Sherrill has been in the race far longer than Webber.
“Additionally, she’s spent more than twice as much introducing herself to voters,” he said, adding that Sherrill has yet to face all that much “negative spending against her.”
On the definite plus side for Republicans was the news that the House Republicans’ campaign committee has made Webber one of the party’s “Young Guns.”
Here’s how committee chairman Steve Stivers puts it, “Our Young Guns are the cream of the crop.”
Of the 11 Young Guns named by the party, Webber is the only one from New Jersey. The designation would appear to be important, because it should mean national assistance and money for the Webber campaign.
The Young Gun program describes Webber as a man who believes “Washington could use a little bit more North Jersey common sense.” If you know precisely what North Jersey common sense is, kindly let us know.
Humor aside, it will be interesting to see if Frelinghuysen, who took no public role in the primary, will try to help Webber in any way this fall.
Those pondering that query may wish to dive into the poll results.
Pollster Patrick Murray writes that federal tax reform, which is Trump’s biggest legislative accomplishment, “doesn’t play well in the district.”
He added, “You wonder whether Sherrill would be doing even better if Frelinghuysen had chosen to run again, since it would have been harder for a party leader to separate himself from the Republican plan despite his own vote against it.”
Two points must be made.
Sherrill probably wishes as well that she was running against Frelinghuysen.
And Webber may do well to politely ask Frelinghuysen to remain out of sight.