ATLANTIC CITY – How to explain an election in which you lost six seats in the Assembly and gained none in the Senate?
John DiMaio, the Republican leader in the lower house, did that Tuesday evening with a pretty good Yogi Berra-ism.
He said Republicans did not lose the election, they just didn’t win as much as they had hoped.
That’s one way of looking at things.
It was necessary, of course, to sample more direct post-election commentary from loyal Republicans privately.
With that luxury, the theme among Republicans at this week’s League of Municipalities Convention was three-fold:
The party needed better candidates, a better message, and, perhaps most importantly, more unity.
Concentrating on the last point, Republicans in New Jersey are divided between the MAGA wing and everybody else.
The event at which DiMaio spoke showed precisely that.
It was the inaugural “Murderers’ Row” cocktail party at Capriccio Restaurant at Resorts International hosted by 12 of the 21 state Republican county chairs. There’s another Yankee reference for you.
Of more relevance to the point at hand, it was also described as a gathering of Republicans who are not necessarily fans of Bill Spadea, the 101.5 radio host, a likely gubernatorial candidate, and at times, a caustic critic of the state’s Republican establishment.
Or in other words, a critic of many of those who sponsored or attended the event.
Jack Ciattarelli was there, as was Sen. Jon Bramnick. Both have been criticized by the Trump wing of the state GOP. Go figure. Ciattarelli almost beat Phil Murphy two years ago and Bramnick easily won re-election.
That brings us to the unity, or lack thereof, of state Republicans.
If the MAGA-wing continues to push an anti-abortion, pro-Trump message, it’s hard to see Republicans winning a majority of votes in New Jersey. In case one forgets, Trump got about 41 percent of the vote in New Jersey both times he ran for president. At least he was consistent.
That logic, however, is rejected by Spadea and his followers.
A social media post by Spadea refers to recently meeting and speaking with Mike Huckabee at Trump National in Bedminster.
“Conservative Garden State Republicans are ready to start winning again,” is what Spadea posted.
How easy it is to be snide about that one.
In the run-up to last week’s election, Republican leader after Republican leader talked about picking up legislative seats.
It is true that Republicans really did not think they were going to take control of the Legislature, but they did not expect to lose seats.
Still, amid the restaurant’s Italian cuisine and open bar, about 300 attendees listened to an upbeat message from party leaders.
Mike Donohue, the Cape May County chair, welcomed the crowd and introduced the host chair, Don Purdy of Atlantic County.
Purdy said Republicans had some good wins last week, including grabbing seats in local and county governments all over New Jersey.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he said.
Taking apparent solace from wins in such places as Summit and Westfield, Purdy said, “We’re building something out there. We’re building our message.”
But Purdy said Republicans need everyone moving in the right direction and raising campaign cash to make sure that “like-minded-individuals” are elected.
There are, of course, elections in 2024, 2025 and 2026 for which to prepare, he said.
Anthony M. Bucco, the Senate GOP Leader, was thinking of the future as well.
“Just because this election is over doesn’t mean the fight has stopped,” he said.
“We are going to continue to move forward and we are going to continue to do great things for the Republican party.”