A wide ranging commentary and dialogue
on the media, politics, today's headlines and the popular culture. Always fresh and new every day! Now celebrating our second decade and more than four million page views. Nationally recognized, widely quoted, newsworthy and noteworthy.
We’ve had a few more counties fall into place since our first primary maps a week ago, Save Jerseyans, so in order to keep you informed of all these developments (and out of mutual love for these brightly colored maps), here’s the latest Save Jersey NJGOP gubernatorial primary battle map:
The Map Key:
Pink – Kim Guadagno already has the party “line”
Light Pink – Guadagno has the party slogan/county party support/something less than a proper “line”
Orange – Jack Ciattarelli has the line
Light Orange – Ciattarell is strongly favored to win the Hunterdon line (he represents part of the county)
There’s different layers of chess going on this cycle, Game of Thrones-style; Christie World vs. Guadagno, Gilmore vs. Layton, etc and so on. We’ve discussed these angles in different other posts and we’ll continue to do so.
Let’s start by looking at registered Republicans (by region) to understand how the “line” battle may’ve helped set the chess board for the final 2+ months:
The Jersey Shore: Guadagno locked down the line in all four Jersey Shore counties – Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean – which cumulatively account for 314,141registered Republicans (1,213,662), or better than 1/4 of all registered Republicans state-wide. It’s a great base to build upon.
South Jersey:Except for Burlington County? Where Ciattarelli grabbed a line where there are 74,722 GOP voters? A clean sweep. We already addressed Cape May and Atlantic; we’ll deal with Salem later. For now, know that Camden + Gloucester + Cumberland =110,489.
Northeast Jersey (NYC Suburbs): Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson are in the Guadagno column, a bloc worth another 211,206 votes; Essex is Ciattarelli’s, and there are 50,317 registered Essex Republicans.
Ciattarelli’s Trenton Inner-Ring: Ciattarelli tended to do better in counties near the capital. We already addressed Burlington County; Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union and probably Hunterdon (this week) = 251,456
Kim’s Quasi-Lines/Slogans: Salem, Morris, Warren and Sussex counties’ Republican leaders are with her, but each of the aforementioned counties have traditionally awarded something less than a line. A slogan, for example. Their total worth is 201,826.
So Guadagno boasts the “line” in counties where a grand total of 635,836 registered Republicans live, a little more than 52% of New Jersey registered Republicans. Not too shabby.
Ciattarelli? Better than half of that number, representing 376,495 Republicans, or 31% of the NJGOP’s registered voter base.
Of course lines don’t tell the WHOLE story. There’s plenty of debate as to the extent lines still matter at all. Let’s examine a few of the other variables to figure out how/if they apply in 2017:
(1) Name Recognition:The #1 factor in determining whether someone can run, and win, off the line with ease? Name recognition. The most recent public poll found Guadagno at 28% and Ciattarelli at 2%; the latter’s name recognition clearly remains his biggest hurdle and, in my humble opinion, the reason why the lines we’ve discussed above do have significant value. Ciattarelli will need to out-work Guadagno, in both the counties he won (more on this below) and in other counties, too, particularly ones like Morris where there isn’t a proper line, to pump up his name ID over the next two months. The good or at least potentially positive news for Ciattarelli? This isn’t the electoral college. A vote in Cape May or Salem counts just as much as a vote in Bergen.
(2) Money: Guadagno is in the lead and likely to remain so but Ciattarelli is expected to qualify for matching funds this week. I think this variable will ultimately end up being a wash for all intents and purposes. There’s a point of diminishing return when you’re running the type of hyper-targeted race these campaigns will need to run to win on June 6th. Neither camp needs gazillions of dollars to reach the relatively small primary electorate, but at the risk of going overboard, it needs to be said that you also can’t do it on a shoe-string WHEN you’re running against candidates with cash and at least one who’s got some party ID (this is a contrast from the surprise 2014 Jeff Bell win, when all four GOP candidates had less than $65k combined as of April 1st). That’s the bad news for Rogers, Singh and Rullo.
(3) Campaign Organization: Advantage TBD. The LG’s operation is formidable and she’s got some talented, experienced GOTV operatives in her employ. She’s going to get her requisite ‘touches’ without question. On the flip side of the coin, Chris Russell (Ciattarelli’s general consultant) knows how to run a targeted mail program. Russell’s challenge is that he’s got to reach a large number of Republicans in counties where Guadagno holds the line and, unlike when Lonegan came somewhat numerically close to Chris Christie, Russell has two months to brand Ciattarelli in those targeted primary voters’ minds. Ciattarelli partisans are confident that their candidate can win, or at least succeed expectations, when he actually gets to connect with the voters (see the Mercer convention).
(4) Are All Lines Made Equal?Not necessarily, and this is where Guadagno is probably rescued IF things somehow end up being close. Don’t take these numbers to the bank (simply trying to make a point about turnout), but if you look at Ocean County (a deep red Guadagno county) versus Camden (one of Guadagno’s blue counties) in 2009, the last year we saw a truly competitive Republican state-wide primary, and you compare current registration numbers to turnout percentages?
Ocean actual raw turnout, Christie + Lonegan (37,618) vs. 127,089 registered (2017) = 29% primary turnout
Camden actual raw turnout, Christie + Lonegan (10,601) vs. 49,754 registered (2009) = 21%
Again, since we’re meshing data sets that are 8 years apart? We’re not aiming for a precise stat here.
My only point: most of Ciattarelli’s counties are “blue” like Kim’s Camden (Mercer, Union, Middlesex) and therefore don’t have strong GOP organizations like Camden. On the other hand, Guadagno strongholds like Ocean and Monmouth have very strong Republican organizations.
Mercer, for example? 23.5% GOP turnout using our comparison.
It’s therefore arguably easier for Guadagno to get out her vote because some of her larger, redder counties are going to do it independent of her campaign GOTV program’s influence. Ciattarelli needs to work harder/fight smarter to win, a common theme you’ve hopefully picked up on by now.
Something that can boost numbers? Besides a hot race at the top of the ballot? Hotly-contested local and legislative contests a little further down the column. For example, since she’s got the line in Bergen AND Passaic Counties (90% of LD40), Kim Guadagno could benefit from the tough Republican legislative primary pitting Kristin Corrado and Paul DiGaetano against one another for the right to succeed Kevin O’Toole. In a strange twist, Guadagno is running with Corrado in Passaic (where the Passaic clerk has the line) and DiGaetano in Bergen (where he’s the candidate the choice). Another example? LD12 where Burlington’s Bill Layton is backing Jack Ciattarelli and Art Haney, the latter whom is challenging Guadagno backer Sam Thompson for State Senate. What if Layton dumps a ton of money in the Monmouth and Ocean parts of the district? Does this pull potential voters off of Guadagno’s line?
There’s more to analyze (and we will, I promise you), Save Jerseyans.
For now, here’s the bottom line:
Kim Guadagno is (still) the front runner for this June’s nomination, but she’s in the odd position of being the “establishment” figure without anything close to full establishment backing. All of the grief, none of the benefit. What do I mean? Well, she’s a much weaker front runner than Chris Christie back in 2009 for a host of reasons, notably because the Christie World types have rejected her and thrown their collective support behind Ciattarelli (see the Union convention) and, at the rank and file level, some Republicans still question whether she’s too “guilty by association” for having worked with a Governor whose approval rating is below 20%. I heard this line A LOT in my private conversations at Saturday’s Middlesex convention from both sides.
Christie had all 21 lines when he ran against Steve Lonegan and walked away with 18 counties on Primary Day; Guadagno heads to June with 10 + party backing in 4 more.
Would I rather have the real estate she owns at this stage of the game vs. Ciattarelli? You bet!
This race nevertheless retains the potential to become competitive. Think of if kind of like a fantasy football match-up. To win, Ciattarelli’s players need to out-score their projections across the board, and Guadagno’s squad likely needs to under-perform (so Kim’s QB scores 5pts but Ciattarelli’s kicker gets 20 points), making a Ciattarelli victory unlikely but not exactly impossible either. “Any given Sunday?” Any given primary, too.