When all is said and done in statewide New Jersey contests, fundraising is right at the top of variables in determining the Election Day winner, and that’s Tom Kean Jr.’s biggest problem right now.
According to the latest FEC data, incumbent Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez raised $2.5M in the first quarter, leaving him with $6.36 million cash on hand. Kean raised $1.6M, leaving him with approximately $2 million cash on hand.
Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report – the nation’s sharpest U.S. Senate race analyst — says Kean has to increase his fundraising “dramatically” to make up for the multimillion-dollar Menendez advantage.
And despite trying for over two weeks to find a single NJ Republican confident Kean can stay competitive with Menendez in the fundraising department, DCspectator found not one. Moreover, none were even willing to go on the record to comment on Kean’s campaign besides offering the usual bromides that “it’s still early” and that “Menendez is too corrupt to win.” While hoping to write a more optimistic piece, this has not turned out to be the case.
Kean is also increasingly being harangued from the right by GOP primary challenger John Ginty, who is busy blasting Kean for being a big spender “in the mold of Christie Todd Whitman,” and his support for certain abortion rights, NJ’s strict gun control laws and embryonic stem-cell research.
Menendez, meanwhile, has been using his time to blast the Dubai ports deal, and pitch homeland security funding for NJ, the fight against the alternative minimum tax, the need for NJ transportation aid and reform of the Medicare prescription drug benefit – issues all perfectly attuned to the voters who will decide this election.
Some have said Kean’s primary situation can help him season his campaign team as a warm-up for Menendez, a veritable campaign animal, as well as assist Kean in helping define himself in a manner reminiscent of his father. All things being equal, this primary is a most unwelcome development, and is a distraction from the fundraising effort.
Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine’s approval rating has taken a dive according to Quinnipiac and other recent polls, and his unpopular handling of the state budget appears to be the main drag on his 35 percent approval rating. Despite the fact this may indeed hurt Menendez, it will not likely be a central factor in the race, even according to most Republicans interviewed.
“Menendez and corruption” must be the central message, one said, in addition to making the case that “Kean Jr. and Kean Sr. are essentially the same political brand, and represent the same issues and values.” It would seem, though, that Kean Jr. must first do a solid job of defining his own brand before simply attempting to claim the mantle of the old man – and for that he needs the cash. This all ends where it began: Kean must rapidly improve his fundraising effort if he hopes to have a chance.
Photo courtesy of www.dailyrecord.com