Plenty of folks are already declaring Bob Menendez a “shoe-in” for re-election to the U.S. Senate next year.
That’s a curious thing, given the fact that only 47% of voters have heard of him.
Bullish Menendez backers are primarily relying on two facts to justify their confidence: (1) Menendez has $7 million in his campaign war chest, and (2) New Jersey Democrats have a 14-point registration advantage over Republicans. Compelling points, no doubt. Republicans always have to work hard to win here. But money and numbers can’t tell the whole story, Save Jerseyans.
My friend Senator Tom Kean (R-Union) ran and lost against Menendez in 2006 – one of the worst cycles for the Republican Party in modern history. Senator Kean came up short with 45% of the vote to Menendez’s 53%. That’s an 8-point victory; solid, yes, but still the closest margin garnered by ANY single GOP Senate challenger anywhere in America that year. And in that particular race, Kean consistently dealt with a massive campaign finance disadvantage. Menendez had almost $4 million more on hand than Kean six months out.
2012 looks to be a very different year from 2006.
Since Menendez went to the U.S. Senate, his constituents elected a rockstar Republican Governor who, in case you’ve already forgotten, was outspent by a multi-million dollar incumbent named “Corzine” by an approximately 3-to-1 margin! Now Christie is traveling across the country building a massive war chest for the state party; his NJGOP currently boasts a nearly 4-to-1 fundraising advantage over state Dems. Surely Christie will do well raising money for the nominee, particularly given the Guv’s not-so-secret disdain for the former Hudson party boss.
Christie will have help, too. His victory has catalyzed numerous important down-ballot Republican victories over the past two years at both the county and local levels. Places like Bergen County in the North and Gloucester County down south are suddenly fair game for conservative candidates after years of languishing under Democrat machine rule. A cadre of new, energetic surrogates (and fundraisers) will help a Republican challenger in 2012 in ways Kean couldn’t count on in 2006.
All of this spells real trouble for Bob Menendez. He knows it, too. Hence, why Democrats are going through the trouble of raising huge money to defend a liberal in an allegedly “blue state.” That fact unto itself is proof positive how money won’t be everything in Election 2012.