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New Jersey's Senate Race Heats Up

If you like politics -- and we LOVE it -- then the announcement by New Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews earlier this week that he will challenge Sen. Frank Lautenberg in the June Democratic primary should get your heart racing.

Nowhere is politics practiced more brashly than New Jersey where patronage and party bosses still rule. This is politics at its most Byzantine; party leaders seek to exert their influence at all levels of state government, moving politicians around like pawns in a grand chess game.

Depending on who you support, Andrews is either pursuing a quixotic challenge to a popular and entrenched incumbent or running a generational challenge against a man who has never been beloved by the voters of the Garden State.

Let's start with the facts.

Andrews, who has held the southern New Jersey 1st District since 1990, has long coveted a statewide office and has come close to making a bid several times. He ran for governor once back in 1997, losing the race to then Woodbridge Mayor Jim McGreevey (yes, that Jim McGreevey), due in large part to McGreevey's edge in county organizations and support from organized labor.

Four years later, Andrews pondered a run for governor but decided against it. He then considered Senate races in 2002, after Sen. Bob Torricelli stepped aside, and again in 2005 when Gov. Jon Corzine was elected governor. He failed to take the plunge both times.

That Hamlet-like history has led some in the state to speculate that Andrews won't ultimately make the race -- getting cold feet in advance of the state's April 7 filing deadline.

However, Andrews seemed clear about his plans in a statement issues by his fledgling campaign Wednesday night. "The people of New Jersey deserve to choose their Senator," Andrews said. "With respect for Senator Lautenberg and his public service I will offer them that choice in this historic year of change."

One source close to Andrews was more definitive. "Anyone who knows Rob Andrews knows he wouldn't be running if he wasn't planning to win," the source said.

Lautenberg, for his part, served in the Senate from 1982 until 2000 when he decided to retire. When Torricelli scrapped his re-election bid in October 2002, Lautenberg emerged as the candidate -- beating businessman Doug Forrester (R) 54 percent to 44 percent.

While there are any number of story lines at play in the June 3 primary between Lautenberg and Andrews, there are only two that really matter: organization and money.

ORGANIZATION

Organization is always important in primaries but due to the way in which New Jersey slates its candidates makes it almost decisive in a primary race.

Candidates who have the support of county political bosses get top placement on the ballot in that county. This provides the favored candidates more than a practical advantage of having their names in a prominent position -- it also sends a signal to voters about which candidates the county establishment supports. The list of candidates supported by county bosses is referred to as "the line."

Due to the heavy emphasis on patronage in New Jersey -- from the governor's office on down -- there is little appetite among local officeholders and other ambitious pols to cross the local party boss and his preferred candidates.

Knowing this, Lautenberg's campaign made an early play to spook Andrews out of the contest by announcing the support of the state's other six Democratic House members and pointing out that each of these members (as well as several leading congressional candidates) had made clear to their local county chairman that they wanted to share the line with Lautenberg.

Such a move means that if a county chair wanted to go with Andrews, he (or she) would be required to field a slate of candidates in opposition to their sitting member as well as other downballot races that are often considered as, if not more, important than the the races for U.S. House and Senate.

While the wrangling over county lines is still something of a work in progress, it's safe to assume Lautenberg has the northern Jersey counties while Andrews has the southern Jersey counties with the central part of the state up for grabs. (Blue Jersey has a far more detailed explanation plus county by county handicapping.)

MONEY

The second major storyline in the race -- as it is in any race in New Jersey -- is money. New Jersey does not have a media market of its own but rather is covered by the New York City and Philadelphia markets, two of the most costly in the country.

That means it takes massive amounts of money to reach voters -- particularly in the northern part of the state that is covered by the New York market.

At the end of 2007, the last period for which fundraising data is available, Lautenberg had $4.3 million in the bank, a total that included a $1 million personal loan to the campaign. Lautenberg has considerable personal wealth -- the Center for Responsive Politics ranks him as the fifth richest member of the Senate. And, according to those familiar with his thinking, Lautenberg has a willingness to spend is own money.

Andrews is no financial slouch himself, having squirreled away $2.4 million in his House account -- all of which he can transfer directly into a Senate campaign committee. But, according to a poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has endorsed Lautenberg, Andrews trails the incumbent by 50 points in the New York City media market -- a staggering name identification deficit that will take millions of dollars to make up.

Can he raise that kind of money? Sure. Will Lautenberg and the DSCC do everything they can to shut off the financial spigot and freeze Andrews out? You bet.

Andrews' candidacy -- assuming he stays in the contest -- makes the New Jersey race one of the more intriguing in the country and could, and we emphasize could, create an opening for Republicans to steal a seat.

After initially declining a bid, biotech executive John Crowley is considering the race and may well run. Given the current GOP field, which is "led" at the moment by Andy Unanue, almost anyone would be a stronger candidate.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 4, 2008; 12:50 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: Clinton Releases Tax Returns

Comments

That last was a response to the Mark Penn CAFTA chapter of the continuing NAFTA pander.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 4, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

And while I am ranting, as a free trader who thinks the main problems are with China, not with the Western Hemisphere, I guess I am glad that both Ds are lying through their teeth when they pander to the unions.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 4, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, greeting Democratic Congressman John Conyers in Memphis, said she'd create a cabinet-level post to fight poverty."

NO! That was why we created HUD and HHS in the 60s. They are redundant. HUD should be disbanded. HHS should remain. No more Cabinet Departments!

In fact, let's get rid of DHLS and Veterans' Affairs, while we are at it.

Read Tom Peters on gov. reorg.

No more government by mismanagement.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 4, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

'Over $7 million a year to talk?'

I think Guiliani makes more than that. Anyway, the rest of the world likes to hear Bill talk, apparently.

Posted by: drindl | April 4, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

This should liven up the race a bit. Whipped cream and checks for abortions, anyone?

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Barr-Presidential-Run.html

Posted by: Spectator2 | April 4, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"Apparently not."

Hello Kettle, call me Pot.

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

dumb@ss

sorry for calling you articulate apparently that too is a slur to an Obama supporter. I presume you have never read the posts here proclaiming they will never release their returns, and why I SHOULD ignore your nasty remarks.

Yea $51 million over 7 years is a lot for giving speeches. Last time I checked it was not illegal to earn money for speeches, we do live in a capitalist country. Did you also notice but refuse to acknowledge that they also contributed $10 million to charities. What gives? Are Obama supporters capable of having a CIVIL conversation without name calling? Apparently not.

Posted by: leichtman | April 4, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

"maybe not you specifically bsimon but I can probably find at least 10 posts here over the last few weeks from Obama supporters saying exactly that, swearing they would never be released."

And thanks, by the way, for chastising me for comments made by others. Thats why I usually ignore your posts.

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"Again you have a problem with Dems earning money, curious why? "

dumb@ss, I don't have a 'problem', I'm impressed. Aren't you? $51 million for talking?

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, greeting Democratic Congressman John Conyers in Memphis, said she'd create a cabinet-level post to fight poverty.

Posted by: leichtman | April 4, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"BZZZT!! I never complained about the tax returns. "

maybe not you specifically bsimon but I can probably find at least 10 posts here over the last few weeks from Obama supporters saying exactly that, swearing they would never be released.

Why the Friday release? precisely b/c they knew that folks like you would be complaining no matter what the retuns said. They apparently were right.

Again you have a problem with Dems earning money, curious why? I heard Collin Powell at a conference where he was paid $100,000 it was obscene but who cares its called the rubber chicken circuit.

If the best you got is that they released it on friday, that is more proof that it is a nonstory and just more for the Obama supporters to complain about.

I presume you have not read the posts here screaming where are the returns we will never see them. Come on you know better you are one of the more articulate Obama supporters.

Posted by: leichtman | April 4, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, I think that's a great question. Very little is done by the Clinton camp that isn't calculated. I doubt that there is anything in there worth hiding, at least that is directly incriminating. Hillary's reason for downplaying it is because the initial reaction by anyone contemplating donating to this lost cause is to tell Hillary to use her own darn money.

If I was Dunkin Donuts, that Iowa grocery chain, or any of the small businesses her campaign has stiffed, I would be upset.

Posted by: bondjedi | April 4, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

"Your response was predictable a month ago when you complained where are the tax returns. "

BZZZT!! I never complained about the tax returns.

What I am is blown away that a guy can earn $51 million in seven years of speaking fees. Aren't you? Over $7 million a year to talk? And that's not a 40 hr a week job either. Its frankly mind-boggling.

What's your explanation for the friday afternoon release? Isn't that the usual time to release a story you want to quickly zip through the news cycle, or are you living in a different world?

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

oh my gosh bismon, a Democrat earned money, how horrible. For a month we have your campaign and supporters scream where are the tax returns they will never release them. Your response was predictable a month ago when you complained where are the tax returns. You want to get in the mud, then why not tell us where Sen Obama found money to buy his house. Personally I don't really care, but neither do I care how much an exPresident made. You would be screaming if he reported $50,000 in income, again very, very predictable.

Posted by: leichtman | April 4, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Ooooooooohhhh!

Posted by: bondjedi | April 4, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

bondjedi get some help. I am reporting your abuses to the moderator. Your posts are not only highly offensive but personally threatening.

Posted by: leichtman | April 4, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Jiminy Cricket! Local rag (star tribune) has a report that the Clintons reported $109 million in income over 7 years. Will this Friday afternoon release be swept under the rug after one short news cycle? Coupled with the earlier announcement of only raising $20 million in March (to Obama's 40), the Clinton campaign seems to be playing a tactical game to bury this stuff quick, with a Friday release, to minimize fallout. Is this a story on Monday, or is the plan going to work?

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"Corzine said he will make a final decision on how to cast his superdelegate vote based on 'what the popular vote is, what the delegate count is and who I think has the most and best opportunity to be elected.'"

Well, Obama has all three on his side, which demonstrates the cunning and shrewdness needed to survive in NJ, backing up what CC says.

If Corzine said he was reserving the right to cast his vote for the candidate that curses at supers when they announce for Obama, who lie about their foreign policy experience, and who have mad $100 mill over the last eight years but don't pay their staffers health care and stiff the Dunkin Donuts man, that would be the ringing endorsement of Clinton that leichtman imagines Corzine gave.

Hey leichtman, there's a crow outside my window who wants me to pass on a message: CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW! He said you would understand.

Posted by: bondjedi | April 4, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Good one, Patrick. Ok, that's 4 yays and zero nays. I'm going!

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 4, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Interesting stuff from David Strom , the President of the Minnesota Free Market Institute:

"As Congress rakes oil executives over the coals over their profits, I detect the very faint sound of millions of the world's smallest violins playing. After all, who is in the mood to feel sorry for oil company executives, given the pain we all feel when we fill up at the pump? No politician has ever been hurt by going after the big profits of oil companies, and it is unlikely that any ever will.

The truth is that oil companies have a lot less control over their profits than most of us think. The main component in the price of gasoline is the world price of crude oil, which has skyrocketed in recent years. And however large the profit numbers appear to us, the oil companies' return on investment is small compared to banking, making computer chips, or even bottling Coca Cola.


According to the California Energy Commission, which breaks down the components of a price of gasoline, only six cents of the price of a gallon of gasoline went for distribution costs, marketing costs, and profits for the oil companies. That is six cents out of $3.61 cents at the pump.

Sixty-three cents, or ten times as much, went directly into government coffers as state and federal taxes. And that doesn't include the income taxes the oil companies paid.

Exxon Mobil, whose profits have earned the ire of Congress, paid $27,000,000 in income taxes on those profits in 2007. That is actually more than all the income taxes paid by the bottom 50% of taxpayers.

Exxon Mobil alone paid more in taxes than 65,000,000 individual taxpayers paid as a group. Of course in reality it wasn't the oil companies who paid that tax, but you and I every time we fill up at the pump. Government makes more money off the oil companies than the shareholders do.

So however satisfying it may be to watch oil executives squirm under the tough questioning of Congressmen, the hard fact is that Congress is partly responsible for rising energy prices. Congressional grandstanding is so galling because their own policies are hurting the very consumers they pretend to champion.

Congress does everything it can to drive up the cost of energy every day. Energy companies are among the most highly taxed in the country. Billions of barrels of oil reserves are kept off limits to drilling. It is nearly impossible to build an oil refinery in the United States, meaning that the United States no longer just imports crude oil, but even refined oil products such as gasoline.

more here:

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DavidStrom/2008/04/03/if_hypocrisy_were_an_energy_source_we_could_drill_in_congress?page=full&comments=true


Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 4, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

If there were a black and a female republican presidential candidate, I would jump at the chance to go see them.

Posted by: drindl | April 4, 2008 02:22 PM
------------------------------
Didn't you see Alan Keyes and Rudy?

Proud you should go, it will be interesting to hear your perspective.

Posted by: PatrickNYC1 | April 4, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

speaking of land swaps with canada, MPR has some coverage of an April Fools hoax, where it was reported that Canada was going to buy Ely, MN & move it north of the border.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/loophole/archive/2008/04/ely_sale_to_canada_hoax_the_stats_are_in.shtml

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Chris C, as an ex-NJ guy, you've done a FANTASTIC job on this posting, bringing to light many of the esoteric issues surrounding garden state politics. In fact, I don't remember as in depth and informative post from you in this space.

Well done!!!

PS If people think McCain is too old at 71, what does that make Mr ADP at 83?

Posted by: JD | April 4, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

~9 miles west of GFIA?

You've called my bluff. I was out with the boys last Friday, tonight the wife goes out & I'm on kid duty.

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Grand Forks. (undisclosed lcoation somewhere near or at)

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 4, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Aren't you in Minot? My sources say 8ish.

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"If Canada stuck us with their worst hell hole, it would probably have nicer people and cleaner politics than NJ."

With the possible exception of the Quebecois!

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

b, it's about 5 hours from the cities. Northward ho!

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 4, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"How many of my fellow Fixers think I should go hear Obama and Clinton tonight at the local auditorium? I have free tickets, if anyone else wants to go. "

If I could get there in time, I'd consider driving up myself.

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

'I have free tickets, if anyone else wants to go.'

If there were a black and a female republican presidential candidate, I would jump at the chance to go see them.

Posted by: drindl | April 4, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Proud, you should totally go and then come back and give us a first hand take from a non-heartless conservative's point of view.
I know alot of it will just be talking points and your not switching your vote or anything but this is by far and away the biggest political story of the past 8 years. Think about telling your grandkids that you saw the first legitimate black and female candidates for president debate.

Posted by: AndyR3 | April 4, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Forget BC, I would take Newfoundland or maybe Nova Scotia. And although they speak french Montreal, Quebec has the best food of any city this side of the Atlantic.

What if Lautenburg doesn't want to run? Could it be possible that he is planning on retiring and Andrews got word of it so he is setting himself up to step-right in and take up the mantle?

Posted by: AndyR3 | April 4, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Informal poll:

How many of my fellow Fixers think I should go hear Obama and Clinton tonight at the local auditorium? I have free tickets, if anyone else wants to go.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 4, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I haven't actually been to a place in Canada I didn't like. In 2000 I went up to price real estate and check out the job market in Toronto -- only a few hours from here. Great transportation system, nice people, very clean, very green. I was ready to go, but my husband was loathe to move his business.

You can't compare it to New Jersey, which my husband, a native, calls an 'armpit.'

Posted by: drindl | April 4, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, If Canada stuck us with their worst hell hole, it would probably have nicer people and cleaner politics than NJ.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 4, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"trade NJ to Canada for one of their provinces."


British Columbia is nice. Though the name would have to change.

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Your description of NJ machine politics makes me wish we could trade NJ to Canada for one of their provinces.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 4, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

If Crowley finally decides to run, and if he has good political skills, he could make this a real race.

Old guys like Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond get re-elected because they are beloved and untouchable in their respective states.

Lautenberg has no such reservoir of good will. His approval ratings are low, perhaps due in part to the general unpopularity of Democrats and Gov. Corzine in New Jersey. Voters might look at this contest and conclude that they don't want to give Lautenberg another term, especially because he would be 90 years old at the conclusion of his next term.

What a mess. There's a decent chance this seat will either go to a "centrist" (Lieberman-like) Democrat -- namely Rob Andrews -- or a Republican.

Lautenberg should retire right now and endorse a progressive Democrat like Frank Pallone or Rush Holt.

Posted by: harlemboy | April 4, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-13/12072875058430.xml&coll=1
Corzine, one of the party's 794 superdelegates, said he would "reserve the right" to vote for Obama for the nomination if Clinton finishes the primary season still trailing in the popular vote. But he thinks that scenario is unlikely because he expects Clinton to take the lead in the end.

"I don't think it'll have to be a question because I think we will have derived the answer," the governor said.

At an appearance in Elizabeth later yesterday, he said he will make a final decision on how to cast his superdelegate vote based on "what the popular vote is, what the delegate count is and who I think has the most and best opportunity to be elected."

------------------

So Corzine expects that Hillary will win, but if she doesn't do well he might vote for Obama instead. That's a real vote of confidence.

Posted by: Blarg | April 4, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

This race could be really interesting because rumors are out there that Lautenberg's really starting to slip. As good of a public servant as he's been for the state (and it's REALLY tough to find that up in the Garden State), it might be time for him to know when to fold 'em.

Also, Andrews really has nothing to lose here because NJ holds its first Lt. Gov. election in 2009, so by running state-wide now, he makes himself a frontrunner for that slot if he fails to defeat Lautenberg.

Posted by: alewis856 | April 4, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

2008 Presidential Election Weekly Poll
http://www.votenic.com
Results Recently Posted, Vote to See Results!
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Posted by: votenic | April 4, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

this is what Gov Corzine said in his endorsement of HC:

"She is someone who I know as a leader," Corzine said of Clinton. "And I hope the American people will recognize she is the most qualified person to be President of the United States."

"I think we all know how strong Hillary Rodham Clinton has been as a spokesman for children and health care," Corzine said. "She is the go-to U.S. Senator that everyone turns to on these issues."

Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rob Andrews also endorsed Clinton today, giving her a strong base of support in the Garden State.

Posted by: leichtman | April 4, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Another problem for Andrews is that he is not trusted by progressive Democrats:

Andrews, for example, joined Republican colleagues in supporting a fence along the Mexican border; backed legislation pushed by banks and credit card companies making it more difficult for people to erase their debts through bankruptcy; supported a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning; and voted for the estate tax repeal.

Lautenberg took the opposite stance on each of those measures.

Andrews not only supported the Iraq invasion but was an author and vocal advocate of the war resolution, and attended the White House signing ceremony. In 2003, he said there was little doubt that there were chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, and predicted that the "evidence will become clear."

Posted by: harlemboy | April 4, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

bonjedi and crisis spreading garbage again. Today's subject for them, deliberately misrepresenting Gov. Corzine's endorsement of HC this past monday. Nice try why don't you try posting his actual words of endorsement which was full of praise for HC and went further in answer to a reporter's question to speculate that HC will surpass Sen Obama in the poular vote and that to speculate otherwise was a waste of his busy time. Nice try. More Obamaspeak.

Posted by: leichtman | April 4, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

"With respect for Senator Lautenberg and his public service I will offer them that choice in this historic year of change."

Well Andrews has the rhetoric down, but I know a buncha people in N NJ who've never heard of him.

Crowley though, I have to say, has a very impressive personal history, having started a biotech company to try to find a cure for a genetic disorder his children were born with. That could play very well.

Posted by: drindl | April 4, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"He was supporting Hillary's bid for the White House, but that doesn't mean he's going to go down with the ship if she doesn't make it."

True, but my point is that Corzine is one of Hill's most vocal backers. He has been her surrogate on FNS and other talkies for her campaign. This week the talking point - intentional or not - is that supers should be voting for her because Obama can't win. Maybe Corzine is better able to read the writing on the wall when he lays out the escape route.

Posted by: bondjedi | April 4, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

He was supporting Hillary's bid for the White House, but that doesn't mean he's going to go down with the ship if she doesn't make it. Not everything in this world is black and white (no pun intended). He may have liked certain things about Clinton more than Obama, but that doesn't mean he won't yield to the voters if it comes down to it.

Posted by: thecrisis | April 4, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Dirty, sleazy, crooked politics are the reason most people are FROM New Jersey (and also explains Hillary Clinton's win there).

Best example - Governor Corzine preparing his escape route from his Clinton commitment, after making the rounds of the Sundays a few weeks ago as a Clinton supporter.

Posted by: bondjedi | April 4, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Interesting race. It's too bad Lautenberg is getting the challenge, though, because it seems it would have been an easy run to re-election considering your recent blog about his Republican competitor's total incompetence.

Posted by: thecrisis | April 4, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

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