Incumbent Democrats in two New Jersey Congressional Districts will be facing fierce battles from Republican candidates in the midterm elections in November. Whether they’ll be able to hold on to their seats may depend on the Trump factor.
Since leaving office, former President Donald Trump’s actions or inactions have heavily influenced local elections. The 2022 midterm elections will be no different, but this time around, political analysts say it’s going to be difficult to predict the results of many U.S. House of Representatives and Senate races across the nation because the political climate in the country changes rapidly from day-to-day. Trump’s been at the wheel as those erratic changes take place. Here’s one example. Even though he’s no longer in office, Trump’s selection of U.S. Supreme Court justices helped reverse a woman’s right to choose. Whether you like it or not, the Trump factor is here to stay.
It’s why incumbent Democrat Congressman Tom Malinowski has been relentlessly criss-crossing his district, campaigning tirelessly in order to hold on to his seat in November. GOP candidate Tom Kean, Jr., will challenge Malinowski once again in the 7th Congressional District, which is becoming more Republican. Malinowski defeated Kean, Jr., the son of a popular New Jersey Governor, by a very slim margin in the last election.
Democrat Congressman Andy Kim has also been fighting hard to keep his seat in the 3rd Congressional District, heavily using social media to reach voters. He faces Republican candidate Bob Healey, Jr., a well-funded opponent. While the district’s becoming more Democrat, Kim’s not taking any chances.
“They (Malinowski and Kim) are both raising big money and working every weekend and their opponents are going to be doing the same because it’s one of those environments that can go either way, and that’s why the work you do makes a difference,” said Micah Rasmussen, the Director of The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
Rasmussen says that before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to choose, Republicans had an advantage of 2 to 6 points, mainly because of a dismal economy under President Joe Biden.
But after Roe v. Wade, Rasmussen says, Democrats got energized.
“We are now seeing polls almost just the opposite, between 2 to 6 points for Democrats,” Rasmussen added.
So, you would think Thursday’s eighth hearing by the House committee investigating the January 6th assault on the Capitol, could signal a sure-win for Democrats Malinowski and Kim in a state that tends to lean blue. But neither Malinowski nor Kim are counting on that despite the committee’s findings.
During the hearing, committee lawmakers, two of them Republicans, accused Trump of dereliction of duty for failing to stop a mob of supporters from storming the Capitol Complex.
The committee lawmakers and several witnesses, who were with the former President during the January 6th riots, say Trump sat in a White House private dining room and watched Fox News as Congressional leaders came under attack and protestors stood just feet away from his vice-president, chanting, “hang Mike Pence.”
Instead of taking action or gathering in the Situation Room with cabinet members, like most presidents do in times of crisis, lawmakers say Trump continued to dispute the results of the presidential election, tweeting, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
All three major networks, CNN and MSNBC carried the hearing live during what’s considered an important TV time slot, prime-time. However, Fox News, where many Republicans get their news, did not air the hearing live. Instead, the hearing ran live on its sister station, Fox Business News, which doesn’t draw as many viewers.
For many Republicans, who consider the hearings to be a theatrical show, the economy could be a big factor in the midterm elections. Many stopped watching the January 6th hearings long ago.
One voter, a former Republican who voted for Democrats across the board in the last election because of the Coronavirus, told me he’s picking all Republicans in November. “I don’t even care who they are,” said the voter, who didn’t want to be identified. He says he’s switching gears because of a looming inflation, high gas prices, increasing interest rates, supply chain issues, the Ukraine War and the fall of Afghanistan.
While that’s just one voter, how many other voters, who’ve already made up their minds to vote for Republican candidates in November, are keeping their decisions to themselves?
“I do think it’s the economy because that’s what hits you personally,” Rasmussen said. “So, if you are a defender of a woman’s right to choose, you know, thank goodness, that right is not in jeopardy in New Jersey – it’s not affecting you in your backyard.”
“I think the idea that people vote for their economic self-interest is overstated and overestimated,” said Peter Woolley, the Director of the School of Public and Global Affairs at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison. “There are sometimes people with legitimate economic complaints, but for the most part, it is a rationalization not a rationale.”
But there could be more drama as we near the fall elections. What if Trump announces he’s running for president again before the midterms?
“That could be a way to get prosecutors to stop breathing down his throat,” Rasmussen said.
Federal prosecutors in the Biden administration would be less likely to investigate a Republican candidate because it could give some of the public the impression the investigation is a political witch hunt.
“This could be the one time former President Trump could announce he’s running before the midterms, then you have two incumbents and it won’t be a referendum on Biden but also on Trump and Biden,” Rasmussen added.
“They’re begging him (Trump) to keep his powder dry until after the election so they can have a clear shot at Biden.”
Woolley says Democrats can’t take any chances right now and have to spend extra time targeting their base.
“You have to make sure you can identify them on a one-on-one basis, whether it’s through emails, social media, or do it the old-fashioned way and walk up on the porch and ring the doorbell,” Woolley pointed out.
A pinned tweet on Andy Kim’s Twitter account reminds followers that he was at the Capitol on January 6th.
“Six months ago today I wore this blue suit as I cleaned the Capitol after the insurrection,” Kim’s tweet reads, as he’s seen in a picture holding the blue suit. “now, I just donated it to the Smithsonian. Jan 6th must never be forgotten. While some try to erase history, I will fight to tell the story so it never happens again.” Then the Congressman proceeds to tell the “STORY OF THE BLUE SUIT” in the thread.
Malinowski, on the other hand, has not only traveled his district taking pictures with some business owners but he’s also made it clear he’ll be fighting to protect a woman’s right to choose.
As for Republicans, Kean, Jr., and Healey appear to be staying clear of embracing Trump, at least for now. Kean, Jr., has been focusing on the economy and businesses that are fighting government regulations in New Jersey.
“I stopped into Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough this week to catch up with owner Jeremy Lees regarding new regulations on breweries coming out of Trenton,” Kean, Jr., tweeted. “Simply put this is a huge government overreach that hurts breweries and customers alike.”
“They’re sticking to the standard Republican script, which is blame everything that’s bad on Biden,” Woolley said. “Will it help? Yes, absolutely. Republican voters get a regular dose of Biden-blaming TV and talk radio.”
But neither Rasmussen nor Woolley will go out on a limb to predict whether incumbent Democrats in the 3rd and 7th Congressional Districts will be able to hold on to their seats. Neither will pollsters.
In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any new, in-state polls that focus on the Malinowski and Kim races. The nation’s political climate continues to remain in constant flux so anything and everything is possible before the midterms.
The non-stop, political roller coaster ride Americans and New Jerseyans have endured since the pandemic is only picking up more speed. So, you might as well hold on to the handrails. The Trump factor is about to turn the next three months into the longest and bumpiest ride of all.