Joe Piscopo is best known for his work as a comedic actor and talented impersonator during the 1980s golden age of Saturday Night Live, but from what I’ve been able to gather, Save Jerseyans, the straight-talking, unapologetically politically incorrect Passaic native isn’t joking about his interest in a run at governor next year.
I’m told by reliable sources – the people who know people, if you catch my drift – that Piscopo is 100% in for the 2017 New Jersey Republican Primary for the right to succeed Chris Christie. The prospective candidate hasn’t said anything publicly yet to confirm his orientation, one way or the other, but that’s what I’m hearing.
There are mixed reports concerning what kinds of formal steps he’s taken thus far, but if we’re being honest, that’s an entirely different question from whether he’s made up his mind. It is only November after all. He’s got time to make a big splash in New Jersey politics and maybe, just maybe, upset the apple cart.
Piscopo has a number of things going for him that other candidates also not named ‘Kim Guadagno’ lack:
(1) He’s got at least some personal resources – he’s no Corzine, but he’s lived in well-heeled Alpine and can probably spare a few bills to get himself up and running with an office and basic campaign staff.
(2) Piscopo also boasts a significant amount of name recognition particularly with older (read: reliable) New Jersey voters which, as Donald Trump proved with his minimalist campaign (spending pennies on the dollar versus Clinton Inc.) this cycle, is a position worth millions of dollars in of itself and constitutes a major advantage out of the gate over lesser-know alternatives.
(3) Piscopo is a populist who speaks the “every man’s language” in the style of Donald Trump whom, unsurprisingly, the former SNL star advocated aggressively on his radio show and even campaigned for in Florida, by the way.
(4) And yes, Piscopo has a radio show out of New York, one he’d have to give up if he ran for governor but one which also undoubtedly helps him in North Jersey battlegrounds. He’s also a regular guest on Fox Business.
(5) Piscopo is pretty darn conservative. Relevant to the New Jersey experience? He’s supportive of repealing the gas tax hike.
What we don’t know?
How the GOP County Chairmen will receive him. Keep in mind that New Jersey’s “line” system is immensely powerful; most county committees award the right to run in June with the rest of the local Republican organization’s established candidates through a variety of mechanisms (ranging from convention to chairman’s fiat), affording a substantial amount of primary race power to the establishment.
Will guys like Bill Layton (Burlington) and George Gilmore (Ocean) laugh with him? Or at him?
The good news for Piscopo is that his celebrity, and relationship with media outlets like NJ 101.5, makes him arguably the only likely 2017 GOP candidate without built-in institutional support who might be able to circumvent the county line system in the event he’s rebuffed. He’d still need to raise money, likely a large six-figure sum, to compensate for the deficit.
Another obvious point: we’re living in the Trumpian Age. People are clearly thirsting for something different. Piscopo is certainly “different” than the fast-talking, ambitious Christie and the wonkish, elitist Corzine if nothing else. It could work heavily in his favor in a field largely populated by politicians rocking vanity license plates and flag pins.
You can bet I’ll be taking Joe very seriously should he brave the Garden State’s political waters and crack some on-point jokes at Trenton’s expense. You’d be crazy not to.
Hey: if Al Franken can do it…
VIDEO: Piscopo campaigns for Donald Trump
FLASHBACK: Piscopo says ‘don’t discount Trump’ back in September 2015
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Joe Piscopo resided in Alpine, New Jersey. In reality, he moved out of Alpine and presently lives over in rural Lebanon Township (Hunterdon County). We apologize for the error.