TRENTON — Despite redistricting changes that helped three of the four Democratic incumbents in New Jersey’s swing districts, Republicans walked out of the primary in June, believing a favorable political environment could fuel big gains in the state this year .
They still hope so. But things appear to have changed significantly in the past three months, with Democrats now feeling more confident that they will retain most or all of what they have won in recent election cycles.
The party that’s no longer in power — right now, the Republicans — usually has a motivational advantage in midterm elections. A few months ago, with soaring gas prices and headline inflation on top of that, it looked like a great year was shaping up for them.
But since June, with lower gas prices and the Supreme Court’s overturning of the nation’s abortion rights, that’s changed, says political scientist Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New York City policy. Jersey at Rider University.
“Both sides have reason to be excited”
“The Democrats have also been more engaged, and now it’s more like that 2018 environment where both sides have reason to be excited,” Rasmussen said.
The redistricting had already bolstered the odds for Democratic incumbents Josh Gottheimer, Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill, as map boundary adjustments to rebalance their populations have also tilted those districts’ voter registration makeup toward the Democrats.
Rasmussen said the makeup of voter registrations in the 3rd and 11th districts moved 50,000 to the Democrats, while the 5th district moved 40,000 in their direction. Of the swing districts, only the 7th District moved to Republicans in the redistricting, by a network of about 30,000 voters.
“It takes a lot to knock out an incumbent, and there’s reason for him to be enthusiastic and upbeat everywhere but the 7th District,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said three months ago he would have said Kean was the race favourite. It’s less pronounced now.
“But I think there’s still a lean,” he said. “You can’t really deny that Tom Kean still has an edge in this district.”
“It’s the only race in the state where you would say at this point that you could still see a detectable Republican lean at this point,” he said. “And we’ll see what happens because the environment is changing rapidly and I think it will continue to change rapidly through November.”
Rasmussen was referring to the thinness of the swing quarters. He said none of New Jersey’s incumbent Republicans — Chris Smith or Jeff Van Drew — are “sweating at this point.”
The election is in nine weeks, on November 8.
Given the levels of enthusiasm on both sides, Rasmussen said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a turnout similar to 2018’s midterm level of 56%.
“I think it’s possible,” he said. “And I don’t think we’ll be sitting here embarrassed by the few voters who voted after Election Day.”
Participation will not be close to two years ago, when it was 72% for the presidential election. The last three times the House races dominated the poll, turnout was 42% to 43% of registered voters.
Who’s on the ballot in New Jersey
Rep. Donald Norcross of Camden, Democratic Party
Claire Gustafson of Collingswood, Republican Party
Isaiah Fletcher of Cherry Hill, Libertarian Party
Allen Cannon of Titusville, Cannon Firing
Patricia Kline of Turnersville, For the People
Rep. Jeff Van Drew of Dennis Township, Republican Party
Tim Alexander of Galloway, Democratic Party
Michael Gallo of Lower Canton, Libertarian Party
Anthony Parisi Sanchez de Millville, not for sale
Representative Andy Kim of Moorestown, Democratic Party
Bob Healey of Moorestown, Republican Party
Christopher Russomanno of Bordentown, Libertarian Party
Southampton’s Gregory Sobocinski, God Save America
Representative Christopher Smith of Toms River, Republican Party
Matthew Jenkins of Colts Neck, Democratic Party
Jason Cullen of Manalapan, Libertarian Party
Pam Daniels from The Brick, progressing with Pam
David Schmidt of Toms River, We the People
Hank Schroeder of Sea Girt, no tagline filed
Representative Josh Gottheimer of Wyckoff, Democratic Party
Frank Pallotta of Mahwah, Republican Party
Jeremy Marcus of Monroe, Libertarian Party
Trevor Ferrigno of Fair Lawn, Together We Stand
Louis Vellucci of Mahwah, American Values
Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of Long Branch, Democratic Party
Susan Kiley of Hazlet, Republican Party
Tara Fisher of Lindenwold, Libertarian Party
Eric Antisell from New Brunswick, Move Everyone Forward
Inder Jit Soni of Edison, New Jersey Premier
Representative Tom Malinowski of East Amwell, Democratic Party
Thomas Kean Jr. of Westfield, Republican Party
Veronica Fernandez from Long Valley, Of, By, For!
Robert Menendez of Jersey City, Democratic Party
Marcos Arroyo of West New York, Republican Party
Dan Delaney of Hoboken, Libertarian Party
Joanne Kuniansky of West New York, Socialist Workers’ Party
David Cook of Kearny, various slogans: The Mediator; People rather than parties; Vote for real change
Pablo Olivera of Newark, Labor Party
John Salierno of Jersey City, truth and merit
Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of Paterson, Democratic Party
Billy Prempeh of Paterson, Republican Party
Sean Armstrong of Jersey City, Libertarian Party
Lea Sherman of West New York, Socialist Workers Party
Representative Donald Payne Jr. of Newark, Democratic Party
David Pinckney of Irvington, Republican Party
Kendal Ludden of Bayonne, Libertarian Party
Clenard Childress Jr. of East Orange, the Mahali Party
Dorothy Jane Humphries of Jersey City, Together We Can
Cynthia Johnson of Glen Ridge, Jobs and Justice
Rep. Mikie Sherrill of Montclair, Democratic Party
Paul DeGroot de Montville, Republican Party
Joseph Biasco of Lincoln Park, Libertarian Party
Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of Ewing, Democratic Party
Darius Mayfield of East Brunswick, Republican Party
Lynn Genrich of Allentown, Libertarian Party