Steinhardt Versus Ciattarelli and other Republican Gubernatorial Dynamics


On Wednesday, Jon Bramnick said he would not run for governor.

Soon thereafter, Doug Steinhardt, the chair of the New Jersey Republican Committee, said he would. He joins Jack Ciattarelli, who announced plans to run almost a year ago, and Hirsh Singh, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate this year, as announced gubernatorial candidates as of now.

For the record, the Republican primary is next June and the general election next November.

Bramnick’s decision is problematic for Republicans. That’s because he’s the type of candidate who would have had a chance to beat Phil Murphy.

Bramnick is not an uncompromising right winger; nor is he a member of Team Trump. To his credit, Bramnick often has spoken out against the president’s penchant for trivializing serious issues with juvenile tweets and by calling opponents names.

In a state where Donald Trump was easily defeated twice and where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a bit more than a million, that’s a good thing.

But here’s the dilemma.

It’s a good thing when looking at the state as a whole, but it’s a bad thing when looking at winning a Republican primary.

Moderates such as Bramnick are at an extreme disadvantage at a time when Republicans have moved far to the right. Or moved to embrace Trump.

Recall that a few months ago, New Jersey Republicans under Steinhardt’s control joined with Trump’s presidential campaign and sued to stop the state’s mail-in ballot plan. The suit went nowhere. And it’s worth noting that mail-in voting was a rousing success with a massive state turnout exceeding 4.6 million.

A week or so after the election, Steinhardt hosted a conference call with members of Team Trump, including campaign manager and New Jersey native Bill Stepien, to highlight various instances of alleged voter fraud, none of which have panned out.

The point here is that fueled by Trump’s obstinate denial of his election loss, GOP primary voters may very well want a gubernatorial candidate who agrees with that narrative.

We will eventually see if the three candidates in the race embrace that view and how far they will run with it.

Ciattarelli has been campaigning for almost a year, but he remains largely undefined. One reason is that it’s just about impossible to get average folk to care about a gubernatorial election in 2021 in the middle of the 2020 presidential race.

Then there’s Singh, who comes across as a bona-fide Trump devotee. He spoke at a Nov. 28 “stop the steal” rally in Bedminster and among other things, he condemned “RINOS” like Chris Christie, who has called Trump’s legal fight to overturn the election an “embarrassment.”

Before any Republicans get too carried away in condemning Christie, it’s worth remembering that he was elected and reelected governor not very long ago.

In a column a few days after Nov. 3, I observed that Trump vanishing from the political landscape would be a great thing for New Jersey Republicans. No longer would they have to defend, or at least explain, the president’s very unpresidential behavior.

Of course, the president has not yet disappeared.

And if a seasoned pol like Bramnick concludes there is no room for moderates in today’s GOP, that’s not a good sign for Republicans.

As we said, in a state where the Dems have a voter advantage of more than a million, the Republicans’ base alone ain’t going to win a statewide election. Neither is still supporting Donald Trump.

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2 responses to “Steinhardt Versus Ciattarelli and other Republican Gubernatorial Dynamics”

  1. Steinhardt should immediately resign as Chairman, unless he belives it is acceptable to use that office for his own benefit, at the expense of other Republicans.

  2. Steinhardt is as dynamic as a fence post and as exciting as watching water evaporating. Yawn!

    Ciattarelli is scattered. Even though I voted for him in the 2017 primary (because he wasn’t associated with Christie), I couldn’t tell you where he stands on anything, except his two feet. Plus, people can’t pronounce his name.

    Singh is a proven state-wide loser.

    As bad as Murphy is, there is no Republican who can generate the excitement and support to even come close to winning. With any of these three wannabees, the GOP will probably have even smaller caucuses in 2022.

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