PARSIPPANY – This really is a “purple” town – and one that may even be turning “blue.” The mayor, Michael Soriano, is a Democrat and Rep. Mikie Sherrill and Hilary Clinton carried Parsippany in the last two national elections.
It was hard to tell that today.
There was not one – but two Donald Trump rallies – about a mile apart from each other along Route 46. The reason for dueling rallies, if you will, need not be explored here. Both rallies probably attracted about 2,000 to 2,500 people combined. Suffice to say, the scene was very much the same at both locations.
Supporters stood along the highway and waved Trump flags, held aloft Trump signs and wore Trump attire – especially shirts and hats.
Donna Stridacchio, a local woman, organized the rally at 46 and Baldwin Road.
“We need to save our country,” she said.
This election year – even more than normal – has partisans on both sides framing the debate in apocalyptic terms. So Stridacchio’s assessment was typical.
A friend of hers visiting from Florida, Harry Martin, was even more bullish, enthusiastic and maybe just plain delusional.
He was yelling through a microphone at passing motorists about Trump’s strengths and Joe Biden’s weaknesses. He waved aside an observation that his home state of Florida is an election battleground, claiming that Trump has it locked up. Martin also said he thinks Trump can carry New Jersey, which no Republican presidential candidate has done in more than 30 years, and maybe even New York.
For the record, just about all polls put Biden slightly ahead in Florida and so far ahead in New Jersey and New York that it’s unlikely either presidential candidate will even campaign in either state.
Clearly, the festive atmosphere had a way of instilling confidence among Trump backers.
There was an opposition rally across the highway, but it was pretty small. One participant said she and other like-minded souls had little advance notice of the Trump rallies.
Rosemary Becchi, the GOP congressional candidate against Sherrill in CD-11, was at the Baldwin Road rally introducing herself and shaking hands. She then made the short trip to the other rally at Vail Road and addressed the crowd at nearby Veterans Memorial Park.
She said Sherrill went to Washington claiming to be a different kind of Democrat.
“But she hasn’t been,” Becchi said. contending Sherrill votes most of the time with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In what seemed a bit odd, most of Morris County’s many elected county and state Republican representatives didn’t attend either rally.
One who did was Michael dePierro, the senior member of the Parsippany Township Council. He spoke to the crowd and actually offered some nuance – a rarity at a hyper-partisan event – when he said some may feel uncomfortable with the president’s tweets and style.
“Who cares?” replied someone in the crowd.
The councilman then moved onto safer ground, noting that the president has had many accomplishments, but that the left wing media never gives him credit.
Another speaker offered listeners help on how to vote-by-mail.
This was actually pretty important. It comes when the Trump campaign and New Jersey Republicans are suing to stop what will be a mostly vote-by-mail election. The president’s opposition to vote-by-mail has raised speculation it could have the unintended consequence of discouraging Trump supporters from voting.
A few days ago, Laura Ali, the chair of the Morris County Republican Committee, told party members to stop complaining and to learn how to vote-by-mail. The comments today built upon that framework.
One of the things that Martin, the Floridian, was saying back on Baldwin Road was that the Black Lives Matter movement is a “Marxist” organization.
So, I couldn’t help thinking that the last time I visited Veterans Memorial Park in June it was for a Black Lives Matter protest.
Chances are good there wasn’t much overlap in the crowds.