By Joshua Sotomayor-Einstein
New Jersey Republicans are undoubtedly still reeling from the November 6th election day defeat. Although the over-hyped “Blue Wave” turned into a lower than historically normal change of House seats on the national level and a growth in the Republican Senate majority, in N.J. the turnout by the Left was large-scale and powerful.
While it was almost a clean sweep for Dems here in the Garden State, leaving only Representative Chris Smith from NJ’s 4th congressional district left standing, the state GOP and Republican candidates have a lot of be proud of.
This isn’t an attempt to whitewash defeat, nor am I pretending there is nothing wrong with those party “leaders” who were rarely seen between photo ops. We do need to recognize that while the GOP was roundly defeated in N.J. this past election cycle, it has learned valuable lessons from the past and begun implementing new methodologies to grow the party, build a sustainable and pro-growth brand image, and ultimately win future elections.
If you analyze the efforts of NJ GOP Chairman Steinhardt, the Senate campaign of Bob Hugin, legislative leaders like Jim Webber, incumbents like Leonard Lance and Tom McArthur, and lesser known candidates who pulled no punches such as Daryl Kipnis and Seth Grossman, there were many great campaign moments and nuggets of wisdom to be isolated, studied, and learned from. These lessons could be easily missed if you focus only on the final numbers.
Distilled below are three lessons this Republican activist and essayist believes can help the GOP in New Jersey going forward:
- NEVER RUN AWAY – Running from the Media-manipulated caricature of President Trump didn’t help any campaign. In fact, bearhugging the President’s successful policies is the reason why NJ 2nd congressional district GOP candidate Seth Grossman, who had very few dollars and zero to no institutional support, was able to get within 6-7 points of his rival and winner of the race Democrat Van Drew. Van Dew, a Democrat whose Trenton record is more conservative than some Republicans, was predicted to trounce Grossman by around 15-17 points and spent over a million and a half dollars. Regardless of how hard any GOP candidates tried to distance themselves from Trump, the Democrats and Media responded in lockstep by adding them to their already kafkaesque picture of presidential policies. So there is no point in running anyway.
- BUILD UP MINORITY COALITION ALLIANCES IN URBAN AREAS – Senate candidate Bob Hugin’s embrace of and relationship building with minority communities and leadership was much needed, made the Democrats amazingly nervous, and needs to be continued if we are going to grow the party. While it’s true it didn’t pay off this race, growing the party and spreading the message isn’t about one election, nor does substantive relationship building happen overnight. Moreover, Hugin didn’t cede any ground and brought the battle to overwhelmingly Democratic urban areas such as large parts of Essex County and almost all of Hudson County. The state GOP needs to directly invest in growing the party in urban areas and in minority communities if county GOP organizations won’t or can’t. For example? Developing candidates for Board of Education and City Council, holding day seminars for activist training in urban areas, conducting focus group style listening tours, and vocally championing local issues that are organically Republican but aren’t often highlighted (for example, the Katyn Memorial Statue in Jersey City) are all relatively simple ways to grow a base in minority communities and urban areas (One out of the box idea – fund Republican young adults in urban areas to engage their local communities with outreach and education programs).
- KEEP THE MESSAGING GOING – New Jersey Republican HQ has been on point with the continued official statements, new media refutations, and public critique of the Murphy administration and other Democrats’ insane and inane policy proposals. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Without the steady flow of fact-based rebuttals of the many false statements by Murphy and other Democrats, none would know there is another way than the road to ruin our state is on. Perhaps few in New Jersey now know it, but even a roaring river starts as a trickle. The NJ GOP should double down on its new-found amazing skills of messaging, policy critique, and the avenues for getting said message out and amplify their impact by training grassroots GOP activists so that they too can do it.
The midterm elections were not the historic “Blue Wave” the Dems claimed would occur.
Yet, for the NJ GOP, the combination of the usual mid-term pendulum swing, Democratic challengers with solid fundraising, vacant seats, a united Democratic Party in control of Trenton, a 2-to-1 registration gap against Republicans, and the narrative collusion of the Democrat-Media complex cumulatively proved too much to weather.
If Republicans in New Jersey can learn from our mistakes as well as extract the above (and other) positive lessons (to stop running from Trump, engage minority and urban communities, and create effective messaging) we can make a better, strong, and smarter party that can actually win win elections.