NEW BRUNSWICK – Intent on reviving the Reagan legacy during last year’s presidential election, Republicans established their campaign base camp in the Woodbridge area and jumped on the telephones in search of suburban white voters who might identify with the patriotic and moderate elements of U.S. Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) candidacy.
If President Barack Obama stumbled in his bid, the GOP wanted to be in a position to rev up the diner and bowling pin and VFW Hall crowds, but it never happened.
With Obama in cruise control and the game changed when McCain moved rightward with his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, Middlesex County finally went heavily for the Illinois senator: 60 to 38.5% – a margin not as wide as Essex (76 to 23%); or Hudson (73 to 26%), and right around the percentages registered by neighboring Union County (64 to 35%).
“We had thought a place like Sayreville might go for McCain or that he could make it competitive, but Obama carried Sayreville,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville). “Locally, one Democrat and one Republican each won a council seat.”
With Hudson and Essex Democratic Party lock counties for Corzine – albeit not by the wide vote disparities Obama secured over McCain – Democrats in a gubernatorial election year are looking to make certain their base voters are secure in the tight knit suburban highway towns of Middlesex, where Republicans will strive to make gains with their anti-property tax message.
As chair of the powerful transportation committee, Wisniewski fought Corzine hard on the governor’s toll monetization plan, and some of the machine remnants from the glad-handing era of Jim McGreevey don’t naturally line up with corporate product turned big city sympathizer Corzine.
Looking to shore up his party contacts, Corzine continues to make regular public appearances – at the Middlesex Bar Association, and at the Presidential inaugural ceremony in Edison, for example – in that blue collar territory where Republicans had hoped to scratch out more support in 2008 and where Democrats have handed him some tough fights.
No worries, says Middlesex County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo.
“Middlesex always has been a strong Democratic county,” Spicuzzo told PolitickerNJ.com. “The governor just doesn’t want to take anything for granted.”