NJ Election Shows Cruz/Tea Party Strengthens GOP Even in Blue States

Elections come down to turnout. Turnout comes down to passion. Democrats understand that. Republicans don't.


The GOP panicked in its showdown with Obama Inc. over a fear of losing "moderate" voters. It has once again chosen to stand for nothing out of fear of standing for something that people don't like.

How is that working out as a strategy? Badly.

In New Jersey, Cory Booker was the anointed candidate. He was unstoppable. The Obama of the Garden State. No one was even supposed to run against him.

And his opponent, Steve Lonegan, did all the things that he wasn't supposed to do. He campaigned with Sarah Palin. Come on? Bringing Sarah Palin to a state where you can see Manhattan from your house? Crazy.

And he did it all while the media was running a national hate campaign comparing Cruz and the Tea Party to the new (Latino) Confederacy.

How did it work out? Not too badly.

Democrat Cory Booker underperformed his showing in almost all the polls, and wound up winning by only 10.3 points. By contrast, Obama won New Jersey by 18 points just last November. At the same time, Democratic senator Robert Menendez cruised to a 19-point victory over a veteran moderate Republican state senator...

Booker himself endlessly referred to Republican Steve Lonegan’s time as head of the state’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a tea-party-aligned group.

But Booker’s strategy didn’t seem to work and may even have energized Lonegan’s base. Booker had a 35-point lead only six weeks ago.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released just last Monday still showed him with at 58 percent to 36 percent lead. Quinnipiac’s poll released on Tuesday had Booker with a 14-point lead. Only the Monmouth University poll that came out on Monday properly pegged Booker with a ten-point lead.


In defeat, Lonegan won a higher percentage of the vote for U.S. Senate than any Republican in the Garden State has gotten in a dozen years.

Elections come down to turnout. Turnout comes down to passion.

Democrats understand that. Republicans don't. There is a class of voters that turns out for every election. These people tend to be informed. And then there are voters who come out when they're passionate about something.

The Republican strategy is to trade passion for neutrality. That was the Romney ticket. Put forward someone who seems competent and doesn't upset people. And will minimize the Anti vote. And the turnout will somehow take care of itself.

And it does not work that way.

Lonegan was the opposite of the Christie Republican, who tapes sound bites, but stands for nothing once you get past the bluster. He stood for something. And he beat the odds. Not all the way, but more than anyone would expect against a candidate whom Christie was afraid to face off against... and who got pushed into the Senate slot in what was likely an under-the-table deal between Christie and Obama.

Republican consultants are still gulping in panic over the "damage" that Cruz and the Tea Party did to their brand. But the only hope for the Republican Party is to stop worrying about brands and start fighting for what they believe in.

Obama has done it and won. Cory Booker, who stands for nothing in particular, took the Republican approach and barely squeaked through.

There's a lesson here and it doesn't come with a white flag.