Hard Numbers, not Animated Events, Driving Early Dem Returns

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill in LD24.

A few days ago, a Morris County Republican looked at the political landscape and observed there didn’t seem to be all that much excitement among Democrats.

The presidential race hovers over everything else, but let’s not forget that two years ago, Democrats Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill grabbed the two congressional seats – CD-7 and CD-11 – that cover the traditional Republican bastion of Morris County.

“Re-claiming” those seats has been a GOP goal since as soon as the 2018 election ended.

Before we get to the excitement barometer, we must look at the data. And that makes the Republicans’ task a bit harder.

In sizing up the Tom Kean-Malinowski and Rosemary Becchi-Sherrill races, it is important to consider there are more Democrats out there this time around.

In 2018, there were about 7,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in both districts. But this year, that has swung around.

CD-7 now has about 9,000 more Democrats and CD-11 has about 8,000 more. That’s a 16,000 and 15,000 turnaround. This is from the Oct. 1 voter registration report of the New Jersey Secretary of State.

Malinowski won in 2018 by about 16,000 votes. Kean, obviously, has to overcome that, a task made hard by the increase in Democratic registration. Becchi has a more difficult terrain to negotiate in CD-11, where Sherrill won by about 47,000 votes. And now, there are more registered D’s than there were two years ago.

As far as “excitement,” let’s remember that the pandemic has made this not your usual campaign.

But it’s not that simple. We need to parse that general statement.

Notwithstanding the pandemic, which, of course, appears to be surging again, Republicans seem more willing than Dems to hold normal campaign events. These are in-person fundraisers and flag-waving rallies. They may be for Donald Trump, but local candidates show up as well.

In contrast, many of the Democratic events in these two districts are virtual, or, as Malinowski is doing, “drive-by rallies.” This is when the congressman stations himself in a central location and chats with supporters who drive up to him in their vehicles.

So, sure, the Democratic events are not nearly as scintillating as a few hundred people lined up along the side of the road wearing MAGA-attire and waving Trump flags.

But does it mean anything?  In some ways, rallies can be overrated, because they don’t really expand a candidate’s base of support; they just attract those who already are voting your way.

Then, there’s COVID-19. Very simply, Republicans and Democrats are treating it differently. For proof, consider that Dems have curtailed many in-person events while Republicans are having them with many supporters not wearing masks.

Make no mistake. How both parties are responding to the pandemic is a political issue in itself.

As we enter the last few days here, the nasty ads continue to flow in the Kean-Malinowski race.

Becchi is also continuing to lambaste Sherrill as a radical and a puppet of Nancy Pelosi.

Sherrill has ignored much of this. Her ads have been positive spots that stress her background as a Navy pilot, a federal prosecutor and her work on health care.

That’s what you do when you feel you’re ahead.

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