In Virginia gubernatorial election, Republican Glenn Youngkin could succeed where Jack Ciattarelli fails in New Jersey



When Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, released the following tweet last Wednesday, in the wake of the recall vote in California, it was essential that political observers in New Jersey took note:

“In a nationalized political environment, it is impossible not to watch the Democratic explosion of suburban California and see dire warning signs for Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign in NJ. There is no sign that they are backing down.

Micah’s point is irrefutable. In blue states like California and New Jersey, a political media attack on a candidate or national cause for their Trumpist connections is a virtual guarantee of victory for anti-Trump forces.

We saw this very clearly in the case of the California campaign to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom, who initially had a substantial prospect of success. Once Newsom countered with a massive anti-Trump media push, the recall campaign was gutted, especially among suburban voters.

In the Blue States, including New Jersey, there are two main reasons for the effectiveness of any credible anti-Trump push.

The first is the harmful racism and bigotry of Donald Trump and his MAGA supporters.

The second is the growing efforts of Trump’s forces to undermine faith in the integrity of elections by making despicable and false allegations of stolen elections against their opponents.

Jack Ciattarelli was part of such a Trumpian effort to undermine faith in the integrity of the 2020 presidential election by appearing as a guest speaker at a Trumpian anti-theft rally on November 28. -steal the event.

The developments of the last week, which I spoke about in my last column (link below), destroyed the credibility of this Ciattarelli denial.

The discrediting of Ciattarelli’s denial has left his campaign in a dying state. Jack’s disclaimers of responsibility for his conscious participation in the “stop-the-steal” event have all the credibility of Bill Clinton’s protests that “I did not have sex with this woman” during the Monica scandal Lewinsky.

The point is, the courageous anti-Trump Jack Ciattarelli of the 2017 GOP Primary, like the biblical Esau, sold his anti-Trump birthright for a mess of political soup in 2020-2021 in an effort to secure the support from The MAGA Crowd of New Jersey. He is now paying the price.

On the other hand, in Virginia, a blue state with purple reflections, the Republican candidate for governor, Glenn Youngkin, by avoiding any participatory action in Trump’s “stop-the-steal” movement, is about to win a shattering victory on his Democrat. opponent, former Governor Terry McAuliffe. According to the Washington Post-Schar School’s most reputable poll, this race has now boiled down to a virtual dead end.

Full disclosure: I never bet on the outcome of a contest, let alone the election. If I had to bet on the Virginia election, I would bet Terry McAuliffe to win. The key factor is the issue of the Covid vaccine, which is a decisive positive for Democratic candidates in most of the blue states. And if I lived in Virginia, I would vote for him.

Nonetheless, it’s quite clear that Youngkin’s chances of securing a surprise victory are increasing every day. There are two major factors that distinguish his campaign from New Jersey Ciattarelli’s senseless and poorly strategic effort.

The first is that, unlike Ciattarelli, Youngkin never participated in any “stop-the-steal” Trumpian activity.

The second is that Youngkin made the centerpiece of his campaign a proposal to eliminate the state tax on groceries. This is a politically charged move that could be the silver bullet to securing an Election Day victory for the GOP underdog. This is in direct contrast to Ciattarelli, whose main anti-state tax message is limited to a corporate tax cut proposal without any populist appeal.

First, regarding Youngkin’s non-participation in any Trumpian anti-theft activity: it is true that Youngkin strongly supported Trump’s 2020 reelection bid and never explicitly denounced Trump’s anti-theft effort. flight. He received Donald Trump’s endorsement in the 2021 general election, though he was far from the most pro-Trump candidate in this year’s Virginia GOP governor’s primary.

Youngkin, however, emphatically acknowledged the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory.

This refusal to denigrate Biden’s presidential titles and his non-participation in any Trump stop-the-flight event has given Youngkin the basis for breaking with Trump over whether he thinks Democrats will cheat in the next election.

“No, I think we’re going to have a clean and fair election and I fully expect to win,” Youngkin told host Susan Page during the first Virginia general election debate last Thursday.

However, this declaration was an absolute political masterstroke for Youngkin. This declaration of independence from Donald will greatly enhance Youngkin’s appeal to the Virginia suburbs, especially Northern Virginia, without causing a reduction in his support from base Trump voters.

There is no way for Jack Ciattarelli to make such a statement without missing every test of political laughter. Such a declaration of independence will only serve as a reminder to New Jersey’s political media of the shameless loyalty Ciattarelli has brought to the stop-the-steal movement, including his speech at the November 28 rally to a Trump supporter waving a “Stop – the sign “Fly”.

Then on the tax issue: Like virtually all candidates for governor in the last fifty years of the two political parties, Jack Ciattarelli has promised to take action to bring about a reduction in property taxes. Such promises are now being pushed aside indefinitely by voters and no longer believed, as property taxes continue to skyrocket in the Democratic and Republican administrations.

As for Ciattarelli’s commitment to lower corporate taxes, there is an economic argument that it could lead to increased economic growth. And it could be a winner with the friends of the President of the Republican State of New Jersey, Bob Hugin, a Trump-backed business mogul who has shown no political intelligence and whose most notable political activity in that day was his crushing defeat in the Senate in his 2018 campaign against incumbent US Senator Bob Menendez.

But on Main Street New Jersey, Ciattarelli’s corporate tax cut pledge is politically a non-starter at best and a campaign initiative with enormous backlash at worst. New Jersey taxpayers won’t be happy to hear that Ciattarelli is about to give American business a break. This negates his business claim that “I’m Jack Ciattarelli from Main Street, and he’s Phil Murphy from Wall Street.”

In contrast, Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to eliminate the Virginia grocery tax is a huge political homerun in any park, including Yellowstone.

There is a legitimate argument, made by McAuliffe, that such a tax measure cannot be implemented without major cuts in vital state programs, including infrastructure. Voters, however, by and large, won’t care. They hate the tax on groceries so much that many will choose to risk putting their faith in Youngkin’s promise that he can eliminate this tax without deleterious cuts to government services.

And the most important player in spreading the grocery tax elimination message will be campaign manager Mark Campbell, from Camden, New Jersey, with a long and distinguished career in the countryside. from New Jersey.

Indeed, Mark was a key Republican player in the 1991 New Jersey legislative campaign that won for the GOP anti-veto majorities, the GOP’s biggest victory in modern New Jersey political history. This campaign was won on a basic GOP pledge: a pledge to reduce the sales tax, which was increased under Gov. Jim Florio, from seven percent to six percent.

The campaign was the most successful New Jersey Republican campaign I have witnessed. The main decision-makers were the Republican Assembly triumvirate of then-Republican Assembly leader Chuck Haytaian (who became Assembly Speaker after the campaign), the GOP Assembly’s executive director of staff Don Sico and Assembly GOP campaign coordinator Gregg Edwards. And Mark Campbell was the campaign advisor for some of the most important district campaigns.

Under Haytaian’s leadership, the decision was made to focus on just one of Florio’s tax increases, the sales tax hike. The reasoning, which turned out to be remarkably prescient, was that a tax cut with the broadest impact, sales tax, rather than income tax, would have the most appeal to voters. .

This move is remarkably similar to the Youngkin campaign’s choice to focus on eliminating the most ubiquitous tax, the tax on groceries. I have no doubt that Mark Campbell, with his recollection of the 1991 New Jersey Republican legislative campaign, was the major influence in this Youngkin campaign decision.

And I also think Mark Campbell was the key player, other than Glenn himself, behind Youngkin’s declaration of independence from Trump during the recent debate.

Chuck Haytaian and Frank Holman, the former Republican state president of New Jersey, were the two most knowledgeable New Jersey Republican political leaders I’ve known. Sadly Frank Holman is now deceased and Chuck Haytaian is now retired. And in reality, no one has come since to play the role of New Jersey Republican smart pol in residence.

Mark Campbell, however, is still in the political game. And if on Election Day Glenn Youngkin wins while Jack Ciattarelli loses, the cry will rise from Republican players in New Jersey and activists in the New Jersey Republican Party decimated by Trump: “Go home, Mark Campbell, go home. in New Jersey!

Alan J. Steinberg served as a regional administrator for Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

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