The standing room only crowd was packed shoulder to shoulder in a small, stuffy room listening to Democratic congressional candidate Tom Malinowski.
And when Malinowski began speaking Friday night at the official opening of his Union County headquarters in Summit, he talked – favorably- about Ronald Reagan.
No, Malinowski had not lost his head.
He was stressing how the Republican Party has gone from “Morning in America” to “white nationalism” and coddling dictators like Vladimir Putin.
From here, Malinowski spoke about a “darkness” enveloping Republicans today and how this year’s midterm elections boil down to “who we are as a people.”
He added, “That’s a pretty big deal when you think about it.”
Malinowski asserted that people are seeing this “darkness” in TV ads that accuse him of representing terrorists. He said Republicans are running a campaign based on “fear” and “smear.”
Leonard Lance, the Republican incumbent in the 7th District, also is running ads that stress his moderate and bipartisan positions. And in public appearances, Lance has been quick to criticize the president’s behavior.
Nonetheless, Malinowski clearly is striving to link Lance to Donald Trump and the perceived dark forces of evil.
The good news for Malinowski – and the troubling news for Lance – is that the darkness if you will is a gift that keeps on giving.
Malinowski referred to the president’s poor response to the death of John McCain and his initial refusal to keep the White House flag at half staff.
“It went up and down,” he said.
Malinowski, a former State Department official, said he planned to attend Saturday’s funeral for McCain in Washington.
Malinowski delighted his dedicated supporters (after all, they were at a political event on the Friday night of Labor Day weekend) by saying that polling guru Nate Silver is predicting that he has a 60 percent chance of winning.
But then he added with perfect deadpan humor, “so did Hillary.”