If the Mood was Supposed to be Flat – or Muddied – No One Told the Middlesex Democrats

The room.

EAST BRUNSWICK – Overall, it had the feel of a train wreck that still somehow was finally going to arrive at the station – in ruins, but miraculously on time, hurried through whistle stop after whistle stop derailment and near derailment by a combination of Trump backlash and sheer numbers.

That was the mangled successful eminently human feeling of the campaign of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) here.

As they blared “Don’t Stop Believing” it was difficult – in the chattering atmosphere of a supposedly battleground New Jersey election – to escape the thought that suddenly the screen would go dark like the last scene in The Sopranos.

But it never did.

“Bob’s going to win,” Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) said, gesturing to a cafeteria packed with 500 Middlesex Democrats and their allies.


“The guy in the White House,” Coughlin said cheerfully but pointedly.


“Donald Trump is on the ballot on Tuesday,” concurred Governor Phil Murphy. “Our country and our state can’t take it. I came back from Germany to bombs being mailed to Democrats like our own Senator Booker.

“This is incredibly consequential,” the state’s chief executive added.

“New Jersey’s going to pay back Donald Trump, for raising our taxes with the elimination of state and local property tax deductions, and the threats of drilling off the coast and going after Social Security,” Senator Bob Smith (D-18) told InsiderNJ.

“Blow out win for Senator Menendez and Democrats,” added Smith, who predicted victory for all the Democrats in congressional battleground races.

Not complicated.

Scandal-seared but still-standing Menendez’s opponent, Republican Bob Hugin, likewise says this race is simple. Menendez embarrasses him and the state, he argues. But – to Coughlin’s point – Trump’s a threat to civilization, activist-minded Democrats say.

“We have 38 hours before the polls open, we’ve got work to do,” Coughlin told the crowd. “Campaigns take an awful lot of work. We win because of people like you.”

The crowd.

Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman Kevin McCabe – shades of Kennedy’s Camelot – navigated the room without irony. “I thought we had an Irish wake for a moment there,” he said, maybe referring to the atmosphere on the other side of the cafeteria doors.

It couldn’t have been here.

As they – U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Senator Linda Greenstein, Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, NJEA Prez Marie Blistan, Ocean County Democratic Committee Chair Wyatt Earp, countywide candidates Freeholder Ron Rios and Freeholder Shanti Narra, Middlesex County Clerk Elaine Flynn among them – waited for an appearance at the podium by Menendez, it was – rude awakening coming up – actually galvanized.

If bellwether Middlesex at its worst (at its best, “The sun rises and sets with Middlesex,” according to Murphy) was supposed to be a dead zone of suburban angst and complacency, the place had the mood of another highway-chopped spill-zone that looked similarly alive last night: Somerset.

“This is like twice what we had two years ago, and that was  presidential election, it’s not supposed to be like that,” said Pallone, surveying the room and the energy.

Watson Coleman got a huge hand when she expressed some choice words for the policies of Trump’s administration: “mean-spirited, racist, misogynistic and wrong-headed.”

Republicans prayed for a reenactment of 2009 when Chris Christie chopped up Jon Corzine in Middlesex.

But when Coughlin took the stage today he met huge applause when he spoke the following words: “Bob Menendez continues to fight for us. He needs out support right now, more importantly, he earned our support, he deserves our support.”

It was outdone only by his introduction of U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“I may have been in middle America but there is nothing like Middlesex County,” the 2020 prez-treading Booker told the home county crowd.

The remark very nearly brought down the house.

“We have seen the rise of hate in our nations that is punctuated by violence in our communities,” Booker said.

“This is a moral moment in our country, and we should not despair, we must be determined to respond with everything we’ve got,” he said.

The room shook with emotion.

“And one of the best things we’ve got is a guy named Bob Menendez,” Booker shouted.

Applause. Applause.

Booker was hoarse.

He was Eugene McCarthy nominating Adlai Stevenson for president at the 1960 convention.

“If you come after Jersey, you’re going to get a fight, and I’m going to fight with Senator Menendez,” Booker screamed, unleashing a Raritan River-sized spill of handclaps.

Menendez and Murphy.

Onstage, Menendez soaked up the mood.

“The Republican leader of the senate said debt is rising, of course it is, you just gave two trillion dollars away to give the wealthiest among us a tax cut,” said the senior senator. “So the next congress they’re going to tackle entitlements. Why do we call them entitlements? Because you’re entitled to them.”

He had the crowd.

They were still with him.

“Go, Bob,” a man kept shouting.

“He was the Republican finance chair for Trump in this state,” Menendez said of Hugin.

Grim faces greeted the narrative.

“This is a guy who was sued by the feral government for Medicare and Medicaid fraud,” Menendez added. “He settled the sued for $280 million. I don’t know about you but you don’t settle for $280 million unless you’ve done something wrong.”

“Yep,” someone assented.


“We have two days,” he said.

He felt it, evidently.

He went for it.

The long ball for the end zone.

“Two days to make American great again,” the senator roared.

The crowd eclipsed Booker from earlier.

It was a turbulent, rough-weather ride with Menendez.

But in Middlesex, impassioned Democrats – with Trump in their sights – appeared to be snugly onboard.





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One response to “If the Mood was Supposed to be Flat – or Muddied – No One Told the Middlesex Democrats”

  1. A room full of HATE! They blast our President who has made great accomplishments, while they cheer that corrupt sleaze-merchant Menendez. I often heard it said that the democrats would support Hitler if he was on their ticket. I’m sadly beginning to believe there’s some truth in that statement!

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