In 1980, the late former Texas gvernor and Treasury Secretary John Connally ran for the Republican nomination for president. He spent eleven million dollars, and he won exactly one delegate.
In 2018, John Connally has been reincarnated in the person of Bob Hugin, the plutocrat Republican candidate for U. S. Senate. He will spend tens of millions of his own dollars to defeat incumbent Democratic U. S. Senator Bob Menendez. He should save his money. Menendez will defeat him by a double-digit margin.
There is a major difference in the political climate of 1980 and 2018. The Republican Party of 1980 no longer exists.
Instead, the National GOP has devolved into a Trumpist cult, led by the supreme autocratic bigot, narcissist, xenophobe, misogynist in the White House, assisted by know-nothing, pro-Confederate lunatics like Corey Stewart, who won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senator for Virginia Tuesday night.
Thanks to the presence of Stewart at the top of the ticket, three incumbent GOP members of the Virginia delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives are now certain losers.
In New Jersey, Trumpism is definitely perceived by the overwhelming majority of the voters as toxic. Bob Hugin is a candidate whose only real political credential is his experience as a 2016 Trump for President delegate, fundraiser, and campaigner. So he starts off as a U.S. Senate candidate thoroughly immersed in the poisonous brand of Donald Trump.
On top of this, however, Hugin has two major issue deficiencies in areas where Menendez is strong: foreign policy and healthcare. These weaknesses make Hugin an absolutely pathetic foil for Bob Menendez.
We have just completed the weekend of one of the worst presidential foreign policy debacles of my lifetime: 1) Trump’s infliction of major damage to both the G summit procedure and the Atlantic Alliance by virtue of his defamation of Canada’s Justin Trudeau and his advocacy of the addition of Russia to the G conference; and 2) Trump’s unilateral granting to the world’s leading totalitarian oppressor, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, everything he wanted, including the suspension of the annual U.S.-South Korea defense maneuvers and his shameless praise of vile murderer Kim as, inter alia, “a great personality who loves his people.”
Bob Menendez, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this Trump foreign policy catastrophe. He has been making the rounds of national television talk shows, including Morning Joe this morning, and his responses have been most informative and effective. This should help him both in terms of fundraising and motivating the Democratic base.
By contrast, we have yet to hear any substantive criticism by Hugin of the Trump foreign policy meltdown. This is a reflection of both Hugin’s total lack of expertise on foreign policy and his fear of alienating Trump and his hard-core base.
The healthcare issue is of growing salience, since healthcare has now replaced the economy as the leading issue in the national House and Senate elections generally. The issue is a disaster overall for the Republicans on account of their termination of the ObamaCare individual mandate. For Hugin, however, the concomitant issue of prescription drug cost is also a major albatross, disabling his campaign.
While serving as CEO of Celgene, a brand name drug manufacturer, Hugin actively lobbied against the passage of federal legislation that would improve access by generic drug manufacturers to supplies of brand-name drugs, enabling them to produce lower-cost alternatives. His prevention of competition against Celgene from generic drug manufacturers enabled his company to keep its prices artificially high.
Menendez has now signed on as a sponsor of this legislation. From the standpoint of election strategy, this is ideal for him. Menendez is viewed in the court of public opinion as an ethics transgressor. If the voters have a choice between an ethics transgressor and a pharmaceutical executive charging excessive prices, they will vote overwhelmingly for the ethics transgressor every time. On the issue of the high cost of prescription drugs, Bob Hugin is the worst candidate in the country in 2018.
So Bob Menendez has found his perfect foil after all these years. His name is Bob Hugin.
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.