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New Jersey's 3rd: Republicans on the Defensive

The news out of New Jersey last week wasn't good for Republicans. Rep. Jim Saxton (R) was retiring, leaving behind a swing district in an area of the country that has grown increasingly inhospitable to Republicans.

While national Republicans did their best to put a brave face on their chances, New Jersey's 3rd joins Arizona's 1st, Illinols' 11th, Minnesota's 3rd, New Mexico's 1st, Ohio's 15th and Ohio's 16th as major pickup targets for Democrats next November.

Here's our sketch of the district:

Geography: The Fix has driven all over New Jersey (the perils of being married to a field hockey coach) and Saxton's 3rd district includes some of the most beautiful territory in the Garden State. Located in south-central New Jersey, the district includes the city of Cherry Hill and large swaths of suburban dwellers who work in Philadelphia.

Electoral Results: Saxton has held the seat since 1984 with Democrats making an occasional run at him. The last serious race Saxton faced was in 2000 when Democrats recruited then-Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin (D) as their candidate. Bass Levin was an erratic candidate and Saxton was able to co-opt her support with a number of leading Democratic groups and eventually won with a comfortable 57 percent to 41 percent margin. Saxton won easily in 2002, 2004 and 2006. The ease of Saxton's re-election margins belies the competitive nature of the district; while Bush won it narrowly (51 percent) in 2004, he lost it by 10 points to then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

Candidates: State Sen. John Adler (D) was recruited into the race by national Democrats to take on Saxton. With the incumbent now out of the race, Adler is likely to be the party's choice. He raised $229,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30, a total that includes a $190,000 transfer from his state Senate account. Adler was elected to the state Senate in 1991 and spent seven years in the 1990s as assistant minority leader. For Republicans, the key is to find a candidate with a base in Burlington County -- the swing area of the district. Two names are mentioned: state Sen. Diane Allen and Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stansfield. Allen ran for the Senate in 2002, finishing second to wealthy businessman Doug Forrester in the Republican primary.

Outlook: This is a very tough hold for Republicans -- especially in a presidential year. Republicans note that they made gains in Burlington County in last week's state elections including winning an open state Senate seat. Combine the district's Democratic tendencies, the huge cost of television advertising and the huge financial lead national Democrats hold over their Republican counterparts, however, and this seat looks ripe for the taking.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 13, 2007; 2:29 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

"Always got to remember that with hillary at the top, the margins are going to lean R. an important consideration in NJ." - kingofzouk

LOL! When the Republican ticket will likely be headed up by either Giuliani or Mittens? Puh-leease......

Unless the Republicnas nominate one of their candidates who is not a complete idiot, Pro-Iraq War forever, pro-free trade, neocon nutcase, continuation-of-the-Bush-regime-in-every-way-imaginable (which narrows it down to Paul or Huckabee), it won't matter that Hillary is at the top b/c the republicans' alternative will be far worse.

Posted by: buckidean | November 14, 2007 10:28 PM | Report abuse

This is indeed one of the major Democratic pick-up opportunities. Check out Campaign Diaries's detailed and full race-by-race analysis to see where the House situation stands today: http://www.campaigndiaries.com/houserankings

Posted by: campaigndiaries | November 14, 2007 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Drawing congressional/legislative districts using sophisticated redistricting software in a state that is almost totally suburban makes it very hard to unseat incumbents.

This race should be fun and may come down to absentee ballots unless Gov Corzine starts issuing drivers licenses to illegal aliens.


Posted by: Digital_Voter | November 13, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I live in (and blog from) NJ-3 and the news of saxton's retirement was a big deal down here. it's gonna be a tough race. whoever wins (personally, I hope it's Adler) will do so probably by a small margin.

frankly it's just fun to have a seat in play. the NJ delegation seems so entrenched that to have an open seat is a rare chance to enjoy some good competition.

http://www.bluejersey.com/

Posted by: jrlassiter | November 13, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Biden I can stand (if I hold my nose).

Posted by: USMC_Mike | November 13, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"Always got to remember that with hillary at the top, the margins are going to lean R. an important consideration in NJ."


If Clinton & Edwards do a Dean & Gebhart on each other, Ds will clean house nationwide with Biden or Obama leading the ticket.

Posted by: bsimon | November 13, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Always got to remember that with hillary at the top, the margins are going to lean R. an important consideration in NJ.

Posted by: kingofzouk | November 13, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Too many educated, affluent voters in this district for The Elmer Gantry Party. Looks like a Dem pickup.

Posted by: Spectator2 | November 13, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"the huge cost of television advertising and the huge financial lead national Democrats hold over their Republican counterparts, however, and this seat looks ripe for the taking"

This is one of those seats where the DCCC's wooping of the RNCC in fundraising will come to bear. One more seat that will not only be a good democratic pickup but will also probably remain a Blue seat for a while.

Posted by: AndyR3 | November 13, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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