By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
Two years ago, Republican Bob McDonnell was elected governor ofVirginiaafter Democrats held that office for eight years. He immediately cut state government spending and taxes. He appointed conservatives to key positions in his administration. He even demanded cuts in federal spending when much of that money would be spent inVirginia.
Last week,Virginia had elections for its state legislature just like we did. Republicans took control of the state Senate and also gained a whopping two-thirds majority in the lower house.
A lot of people thought Republican Chris Christie would do the same thing here in New Jersey. But instead of gaining a majority of seats in the Legislature, Republicans lost every competitive race and lost an Assembly seat.
Democrats aroundNew Jerseycelebrated and thanked Christie for saving their party from sure disaster.
This year, all the stars were lined up in favor of the Republicans and against the Democrats. There was no excuse for Republicans to do so poorly.
First, Democratic President Obama, who energized Democratic voters two years ago, was an unpopular and ineffective drag on Democrats this year.
Second, Democratic legislators like state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Atlantic County Sen. Jim Whelan cut some (but not nearly enough) pension and health insurance benefits for state and local government employees and public school teachers. As a result, public employee unions, like the powerful NJEA, yanked their support from many Democratic candidates ? including Senate majority leader Sweeney and local Sens. Jim Whelan and Jeff Van Drew. These unions were also broke after pouring so much of the dues they collected from members into political battles inWisconsinandOhio.
This year, the mismanagement of MF Global Holdings left former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine too busy and too broke to be the Daddy Warbucks for New Jersey Democrats this year.
Finally, the redrawing of election districts seemed to cause more confusion in urban Democratic districts than in Republican ones.
All this created a ?perfect storm? that decimated voter turnout in Democrat strongholds this year. Only 18 percent ofEssexCounty(Newark) and 19 percent ofHudsonCounty(Jersey?? City) voted last week.? This created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Republicans.
Democrats gambled big and lost big when they controlled the process of redrawing the state?s election districts after the 2010 census. They split up ?safe? Democrat districts to add Democratic voters to neighboring districts. This created more Democratic-leaning legislative districts, but it also reduced Democratic majorities in those districts.
This put dozens of ?safe? Democrats like Sens. Steve Sweeney, Richard Codey and Jeff Van Drew in danger of being thrown out by Republicans last week.
New Jersey Republicans had more than enough cash to take advantage of this opportunity. Chris Christie used some media breaks and his George Bush-Carl Rove connections to become a nationally known political rock star. This, along with his Wall Street brother Todd Christie, helped him raise millions of campaign dollars for New Jersey Republicans from all over the country.
How did Chris Christie blow this opportunity?
1. Christie Republicans completely shut Steve Lonegan and tea party conservatives out of his administration and the Republican party. They didn?t want our advice, participation or support and they didn?t get it. Republican voter turnout was also low.
2. Christie instead relied on high-priced consultants who spent millions of dollars on radio and TV ads and automated phone calls in just a handful of districts. Republicans spent no money at all in most districts, like Steve Sweeney?s Democratic district around Salem County, where Republican Assembly candidate Bob Villare lost by only 3,200 votes.
3. Christie Republicans had trouble telling voters to throw out ?career politicians like Democrat Jim Whelan? when all three Republican candidates for state Senate in South Jersey ? Vince Polistina in Atlantic County, Dave DeWeese in Cape May County and Mike Mulligan in Sweeney?s district ? depended on political contracts, appointments or approvals to earn their livings and pensions.
4. And Christie failed to convince most voters that Republican control of the Legislature would change anything. Christie spent the last two years appointing liberal Democrats to key government positions. Christie advanced liberal agendas on everything from bailing out the Revel casino, to raising electric rates, to assembling Chinese windmills in Sweeney?s district and putting them in the ocean. Republican Christie made no effort to lay off any of the thousands of Democrats hired by Corzine or repeal Corzine?s 7 percent sales tax or Democrat Jim McGreevey?s 13 percent motel tax.
(Reprinted from November 16, 2011 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/18279-republicans-had-perfect-storm-but-failed-to-take-advantage.html)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 1400AM talk radio 3-4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email
or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.
(Image source – http://media.disastermovieworld.com/2010/04/perfectstorm480.jpg)