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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Linda Stender Vs. Mike Ferguson for Congress

Democrats are getting excited over Assemblywoman Linda Stender's chances against Congressman Mike. Ferguson. Why? The Democracy Corps poll taken May 10-16 has Ferguson up 54-35. We’ll leave it to others to decide if the poll's demographics - 43% Democrats, 45% Republicans and 10% independents are representative of the district. (More on Democracy Corp here)

Of the 609 “likely voters” polled by Democracy Corp, Stender’s name recognition stands at 18% and importantly, only 20% considered themselves liberal, while 43% called themselves moderate and 34% conservative. Linda Stender is a self-proclaimed liberal and once her “progressive” positions become widely known in the district, it’s unlikely her appeal to voters will increase from her current generic Democrat label.

In addition, unlike forty-eight other states, New Jersey held a general election in November of 2005. The New Jersey 7th congressional district went for the losing Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester by 56% vs. 44% for Jon Corzine. Mike Ferguson won re-election to Congress with a similar percentage of the vote in 2002 with 58 percent and in 2004 with 57 percent. The knocks against President Bush from Iraq to Katrina were already baked into that election cake.

Meanwhile, Jon Corzine has become an increasingly unpopular governor with a state-wide approval rating of 35 percent. Corzine has proposed a state budget calling for a 9.2% increase in spending and $1.9 billion in tax increases - hardly music to the ears of voters in the7th, already among the most heavily taxed people in the nation.

Since Stender was elected to the New Jersey state Assembly in 2002, Democrats with total control in Trenton have imposed $3 billion in tax increases - while property taxes, already the highest in the country, have continued to soar. That’s one heck of a record to overcome in a congressional district that has been won by the Republican candidate in every election since 1956.

While anything is possible, the chances of Linda Stender winning against Mike Ferguson in New Jersey’s 7th congressional district are about slim to none. You can judge the mood in New Jersey by the real fight Democrats are having to keep a U.S. Senate seat - Senator Bob Menendez is currently in a dead heat against Republican state Senator Tom Kean.


At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sound of a bubble bursting –-pop!

At 8:22 AM, Blogger PN said...

I'm not following this race real closely, but it looks like Stender currently has more visibility and tempo than Ferguson. On the other hand, maybe Ferguson figures it's too early to ramp up his campaign.

NJ Fiscal Folly

At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very good analysis, better than I usually expect here. The Kean/Menendez thing is the best point.

Two points you are missing -- things have changed a lot since 2005's election between the popularity of Republicans and Democrats. Using last year's numbers show that the district can go Republican, but we already knew that. The district has also gone Democratic, with McGreevey in 2001 (the new map). The 2005 race was also not about national issues, so I don't think Katrina and Iraq were that big. This one is for Congress and the Senate, so the national mood will matter.

The second point is that the generic reelect number is 46 percent Democrat and 45 percent Republican, meaning the district is in a mood to consider going Democratic.

No one is suggesting that this is a lock for Stender or that Ferguson is going to lose badly. But the stars are aligning in a way that could signal a Democratic win in NJ7 this year.

It'll take a great campaign from Stender, a lousy campaign from Ferguson and some luck. But it is the best shot for the Dems in the state.

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

McGreevey is the only Dem to have won the 7th District in decades. And McGreevey's win isn't really that meaningful in the context of Ferguson-Stender.

Note political anaylst Stu Rothenberg comments from 2004 about Dems' citing of McGreevey's win as evidence that the district is trending Dem: "The bad news is that 2001 Democratic
gubernatorial nominee Jim McGreevey, who beat conservative Republican opponent Bret Schundler by almost 15 points statewide, barely won the 7th district. Any district that gave almost half its votes to Schundler, who was demonized by the state’s media as a dangerous right-winger, is a district willing to vote for conservatives."

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the 5:57 p.m. anonymous:

Let's see some data about the 7th and "decades" of information. Every 10 years there is a redistricting, so unless you are recalculating all those old votes before 2002 it means nothing. The towns and the populations have changed radically in the past few decades. It's not like a county that is fairly constant.

In 2000, there is a debate as to whether Gore or Bush won the district as it is currently configured, but there is no debate that neither got to 50 percent. And Roll Call says the liberal Gore/Nader combination beat 50% and did better than the conservative Bush/Buchannon combination.

In 2001, McGreevey won the district when calculated with the current configuration. These two elections prove nothing more than the fact that the people here are willing to vote for a Demcorat over a Republican in the currently configured district.

I say this not to suggest this is a trending district, or that the Democrats are surging. It is just to note that it is possible for a Democrat to win the district. With the loss of support for Congress and the President and the sheen gone from the Republican Party, it is more likely now than in 2000 or 2001 that a Democrat could win the district.

That said, Ferguson is still favored by anyone who is thinking rationally. But November is a long way away.

At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In 2000, there is a debate as to whether Gore or Bush won the district as it is currently configured, but there is no debate that neither got to 50 percent."

Rutgers' Data Book says Bush beat Gore, and I'm pretty sure it was the intent of redistricters to give Ferguson a district Bush won.

Regardless, going backwards in time, it is pretty easy to go down the list of Democrats who probably won this district. (Hunterdon, Somerset, and the parts of Union in the district have been traditionally heavily Republican - only the Middlesex chunk was Democratic, and even that part was 'kinda competitive.') It starts at McGreevey, then comes Florio '89, and then Bradley '84 (hell, he even carried the county of Hunterdon), and after that maybe Harrison Williams and Brendan Byrne. Another words, any Democrat who wins New Jersey in a landslide against a weak Republican.

Mike Ferguson, with $2,000,000 in the bank by election day, probably won't fit the mold of "weak Republican," and Linda Stender started out the campaign on shaky ground when she told PoliticsNJ that the first thing she'd do in congress would be to impeach Bush (that can't go over well in a Republican-leaning district like NJ07, even if Bush isn't loved anymore).

Maybe Stender can win if this is a Watergatesque year and she can find something Nixonian to hit Ferguson on.

But come on, four year old stories about a bar incident and some references to voting with the President x% of the time won't be enough to cut it. Mike needs a serious new f-up between now and November to lose this one.

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Elmer said...

Very worthwhile data, lots of thanks for this post.
Starter recipes


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