My readers know that I am as outspoken an anti-Trump Republican as you will find in America. I regard him as a bigot, a misogynist, and a xenophobe. He is a policy incompetent, a liar, and an unfit president. Because of this, I endorsed Hillary Clinton in the general election last November, the first time in my adult life that I have supported a Democrat for president. And my antipathy for Trump has increased since he took office.
Yet while I have contempt for Donald Trump, I do respect the typical Donald Trump voter. Trump voters, by and large are not bigoted or anti-women but instead are decent people with genuine economic concerns and legitimate foreign and domestic security fears. These are good and decent people who have been misled by the authoritarian Trump’s demagoguery.
I will continue to inveigh against Trump, but I am not a candidate for Governor of New Jersey. Kim Guadagno is, and it makes absolutely no sense, policy wise or politically for her to repudiate Trump.
At the first debate, where Guadagno emerged as a clear winner, she displayed a sound strategy regarding Trump: Don’t embrace him or repudiate him.
This is sound public policy for a Governor Guadagno. In response to a debate question as to what she would discuss with Trump if she met with him, Kim responded that she would emphasize infrastructure and New Jersey’s need for assistance, particularly with regard to the Hudson rail tunnels. Phil Murphy could only respond by saying, “Me, too.”
There is one overriding difference between Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy on the infrastructure issue. Because she has refrained from attacking The Donald, Kim would get the meeting with Trump and most likely, the needed financial assistance. Phil Murphy would find himself at the top of the Trump White House enemies list and at the end of the queue in even getting a meeting with him.
Accordingly, the Guadagno strategy regarding the Trump factor constitutes sound gubernatorial policy. Yet the political benefit from the strategy is even more compelling.
Trump is highly unpopular in New Jersey. Yet in the 2016 election, while losing the state to Hillary Clinton, Trump garnered 1.6 million votes.
The Trump supporter is a very committed voter, highly likely to go to the polls. In the forthcoming gubernatorial election, it is expected that turnout will be low, and that the winner will receive between 1,000,000 and 1,200,000 votes. So if Kim Guadagno can get 75 percent of the 2016 Trump voters to turn out and vote for her, she has a strong chance of winning the election. And Murphy’s advocacy in the debate of making New Jersey a Sanctuary State has increased the possibility of this happening.
It is important to put this issue in perspective. I am an advocate of a liberal immigration policy, but I strongly favor rigid support of Federal immigration laws to keep violent criminals from entering into the country. The Sanctuary State concept, a foolhardy one in my view, would withhold state cooperation with Federal authorities in enforcing these laws.
The day after the debate, the Guadagno campaign came out with a most effective anti-Sanctuary State commercial, featuring the story of Jose Carranza, an accused child rapist and illegal immigrant from Peru, convicted of murdering, execution style, in Newark three women college students. Because the commercial is so effective, the Murphy campaign and leading state Democrats accused the Guadagno campaign of practicing racism. This is a vile, despicable smear, blatantly ignoring the fact that all three murder victims were African-American. This slander against the Guadagno campaign is a quintessential example of McCarthyism of the Left.
This smear will have one other effect. It will motivate Trump voters, most concerned about illegal immigration and resentful of having their preferred candidate, Kim Guadagno, being slandered as a racist, to turn out in massive numbers to vote for her.
Gubernatorial election 2017, more than any other since 1997, is a Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) campaign. The winner will be the candidate who does the better job in turning out his or her base.
One of the keys to having a successful GOTV effort is the recruitment of a dedicated core of campaign workers to work the phone banks, distribute literature, and provide transportation to voters. Doubtless, the Murphy campaign will pay handsomely to its GOTV workers. Thanks to the Phil Murphy campaign, Kim Guadagno won’t have to pay a nickel to her GOTV workers.
The reason is the Phil Murphy smear of rank-and-file National Rifle Association (NRA) members, implicitly comparing them with Harvey Weinstein. This will motivate Second Amendment supporters throughout New Jersey to give their time freely and abundantly to the Guadagno GOTV campaign. The Second Amendment supporters intensely disliked Jim Florio for his assault weapons ban. Florio never smeared the character, however, of NRA members as did Murphy. Second Amendment supporters vehemently politically opposed Florio, but they absolutely loathe Murphy.
I often use the movie, The Godfather, as a metaphor for politics. And when I see the contrast between Murphy paid GOTV workers and Guadagno GOTV volunteers, I am reminded of a scene in The Godfather, Part 2, in which Michael Corleone discusses with Hyman Roth a scene he had witnessed involving Cuban rebels in 1958-1959 and troops of the Batista regime.
Michael had seen a rebel jump into a vehicle with a bomb, killing both himself and the Batista soldier. When asked by Roth, “What does that tell you,” Michael responded, “The soldiers are paid to fight. The rebels are not. The rebels can win.”
Yes, the unpaid volunteers of the Guadagno campaign can win the GOTV battle, just as the Cuban rebels prevailed. In Godfather terms, at this point in the campaign, Kim Guadagno is displaying the sagacity of a Michael Corleone. By contrast, Phil Murphy, New Jersey’s answer to George Soros, is the political embodiment of hapless Fredo Corleone.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.