The GOP Rally For ‘Change’

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - November 11, 2009

Last week’s gubernatorial victories for the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey may not be an absolute indictment of the Obama administration, but it certainly isn’t good news for the president or for Democrats.

Outgoing Democratic New Jersey Gov. John Corzine, a former U.S. senator, definitely had his own problems. There were allegations of corruption swirling about his administration and within the political hierarchy that are always difficult to allay in any election. But this is not just an ordinary state, and the Democratic Party in New Jersey isn’t your typical political organization.

There may be some talk of New Jersey as a swing state, but it’s not. Aside from Massachusetts and Hawaii, there hasn’t been a state with longer continuous Democratic representation in the U.S. Senate. The state has not gone GOP in presidential races since 1992 when Bill Clinton carried it. Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama carried the state easily in their respective races.


 

Although union power and influence may be waning across the nation, organized labor is still politically influential in the Garden State. Approximately 21 percent of the New Jersey work force is unionized. There are more than 500,000 government employees, and 64 percent are unionized. A demonstration of the allegiance labor has with state Democrats: Union political contributions to Democratic legislators out-paced donations to Republicans by more than 4 to 1 ($2.71 million to $644,000).

But the Democrats’ Achilles Heel in New Jersey is political scandal. ABSCAM, one of the most-prolific sting operations launched by the FBI to ensnare corrupt politicians, features a cast of New Jersey politicos. Former Gov. Jim McGreevy left office in disgrace after a “pay-for-play” allegation was overshadowed by his admission of an extramarital affair with another man. And, of course, the shadow of scandal cast on the Corzine administration.

Corzine enjoyed the resounding stamp of approval of, until recently, one of the most popular presidents ever. He reaped the benefit of huge labor endorsements and political action. His personal wealth allowed him to infuse tens of millions of dollars into his re-election campaign. His challenger, Republican Chris Christie, although not unfamiliar to New Jersey voters, had a much lower profile. To make things more interesting, the presence of a third-party candidate ostensibly siphoning votes from the GOP contender made the Republican victory more challenging.


Christie won with a platform of basic conservative priorities: jobs, lower taxes and public safety. He keyed in on what is top of mind with Americans everywhere and, as Bill Clinton campaign strategist James Carville said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The independent voters that swarmed to Obama in 2008 did a 180 and chose Christie. It shows that, at least in New Jersey, the people were looking for “change.”

Ironically, the call for change will be the rallying cry for Republicans in 2012. Seeing how the Obama administration is doing, it just might work. Again.

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