TOMS RIVER, NJ — A new Monmouth University poll showing Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur leading Democrat challenger Andy Kim by just a single point (40% to 41%) has New Jersey politicos talking today, but is it accurate?
South Jersey’s senior Republican campaign operative isn’t persuaded.
“The Monmouth poll has a fatal flaw – it chooses to ignore the history of how living, breathing people actually vote in these elections,” said Chris Russell, consultant and chief strategist for the GOP Congressman. “The notion that Tom MacArthur is going to get 47% in Ocean County, or win by just 15 points there, only exists in Andy Kim’s wildest fantasies. President Trump and Lt. Governor Guadagno both won this district. Together, they averaged over 63% of the vote in Ocean County, while Tom won two-thirds of the vote there two years ago. Combine that with arguably the two best county Republican organizations in the State and a strong slate up and down the ballot, and we are confident this race will end up very similar to 2014, where Tom won comfortably. The more voters learn about Andy Kim’s radical far-left positions and the fact he was caught cheating on his property taxes in Washington, D.C., the less they will like him.”
Ultimately, however, feelings both positively and negatively towards the Commander-in-Chief may play an equally critical role in the outcome of November’s race as voters’ attitudes towards MacArthur and the lesser-known Kim.
The Monmouth survey found President Trump’s disapproval rating in the bluer, Burlington County portion of the district at 57% while the eastern, deep-red Ocean County portion of the district is almost completely the opposite landscape with only 39% disapproving.
Overall, 57% of those polled say passing judgment on Trump is a key component of their votes, including 66% of Trump opponents as well as 60% of Trump supporters.
“Both candidates will need a combination of tactics to motivate their base and persuade undecided voters. The relative weight they give to these strategies is going to play out differently in the eastern and western parts of the district for each campaign,” said Patrick Murray, the poll’s director.
History nevertheless gives Team MacArthur something to lean on. As Russell noted, Kim Guadagno beat Phil Murphy with over 60% of the vote in Ocean during last November’s gubernatorial contest (despite Murphy winning a state-wide landslide). Similarly, Trump easily topped 60% one year earlier, in 2016, and MacArthur easily exceeded the 60% threshold in both 2016 and 2014..
The Monmouth Poll currently finds Congressman MacArthur winning Ocean by a considerably thinner 47% – 32% margin.