Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The New Jersey switcharoo

One of the best chances for a GOP pickup in the Senate is the New Jersey seat vacated by Democrat Jon Corzine, now held by stand-in Robert Menendez. However, Menendez is facing a strong challenge by Tom Kean, Jr., son of former governor and current 9/11 commission chair Tom Kean, Sr.

Four years ago, when an ethically-challenged Robert Torricelli was in danger of losing his New Jersey seat, the Senator dropped out of the race and ex-Senator Frank Lautenberg ran in his stead, coasting to victory. Is history about to repeat itself? From the NY Observer: “Jersey turns, Dems panic; Torricelli, anyone?”

A powerful clue that U.S. Senator Robert Menendez might ultimately be forced to withdraw from his bid for a full term in New Jersey emerged last Friday, when he addressed the question head-on just hours after the world learned that he is the subject of a federal criminal investigation.

“The answer is no,” he said.

That may sound a touch familiar to New Jerseyans. It was, after all, around this time four Septembers ago that Senator Robert Torricelli’s re-election campaign—besieged by similar speculation—spent a weekend attaching a simple, defiant message to Torricelli lawn signs around the state: “Nobody fights harder.”

The very next week, of course, Mr. Torricelli quit the race in tears.

And the rest was history—and the subject, no doubt, of recurring nightmares for many Republicans: Former Senator Frank Lautenberg was recruited to replace Mr. Torricelli at the last minute, and the Democrats ended up with a double-digit win.
Unbelievable. So then the best case scenario for NJ Republicans is if Menendez stays close enough in the polls so Boss Tweed the Democrats don’t trigger the switch until it’s too late.


Matthew said...

There is no such thing as "too late" when your a Democrat in New Jersey. The fact is that according to state law, Torricelli pulled out of the race "too late," but judges refused to let that stop them from putting Lautenberg on the ballot.

Bitter said...

Exactly, matthew. In fact, Lautenberg didn't get on the ballot for more than two weeks after the legal deadline. But apparently the rights of the Democratic Party to change their candidate when the poll numbers looked bad trumped state election law according to the courts.

Even if somehow they forced him to stay on the ballot until so late in the game that not even the courts could come up with some new creative excuse, I would imagine the Dems would tell people to vote for him anyway and then just get him to step down and replace him after the election.