Earlier this week, former Governor Christie Todd Whitman urged Republicans to cast protest votes for either Ohio Governor John Kasich or Texas Senator Ted Cruz in New Jersey’s June 7 primary. Also this week, a Monmouth University poll showed that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump currently trails likely Democratic candidate nominee Hillary Clinton by only four points (34% to 38%) in a New Jersey general election.
According to Trump supporter state Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26), by calling for Republicans to scorn Trump, Whitman is putting politics before the will of the people as demonstrated by the poll.
“I think in the context that over the primary election period the past year the voters have spoken, I trust the will of the voters,” Pennacchio told PolitickerNJ. “Mr. Trump as well as the other candidates had the opportunity to get their message out and his message resonated. He won the primaries fair and square. I am very disappointed that Governor Whitman… would choose to want to circumvent the very same process she used to become a good governor for the state of New Jersey.”
For Pennacchio, the results of the poll reflect New Jersey’s attitude when looking at the general election.
“This is the people talking. Since when did the politicians become more important than the people? People have looked at the issues, looked at the personalities and Hillary Clinton is not to be trusted,” Pennacchio said.
The senator also said that the fact Clinton is still facing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the June 7 primaries is also demonstrative of a larger issue many may take with her candidacy.
“The fact that she is still battling now with a 70-year-old admitted socialist at this point in the campaign is very telling,” Pennacchio said. “The message that Donald Trump has is putting America and American business first. That is a populous message and that is a people message. Two things get you elected to public office: money and votes. Given the choice, I would rather have more votes. You can never be wrong being on the side of the will of the people.”
Not all Republicans in New Jersey are so confident in Trump, however.
Republican state Senator Kip Bateman has yet to back Trump. According to Bateman, however, the narrow margin between Trump and Clinton in the poll does not surprise him.
“I knew all along that it was going to be close. It doesn’t surprise me. Her negatives are so high,” Bateman said of Clinton.
Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi also has not chosen to support any candidate at this point in the presidential race. When asked about Whitman’s plea, Schepisi said that “people should vote in the primary for whomever they feel most comfortable voting for.”
Schepisi said she was “surprised” by the four percent differential between Trump and Clinton in the poll but that the most telling part of it was that a large proportion of respondents were undecided or voting for other candidates to that point.
“I think it speaks to the underwhelmed feeling people have in both parties,” Schepisi said. “I’m sure a lot of people will ultimately end up supporting the presidential nominee of their party. For a cycle where we originally thought there was going to be tremendous voter turnout, we may have a degree of apathy on both sides.”
Pennacchio said he is confident Trump will win New Jersey in November because he “has momentum on his side.”
“I think there is a chance that Hillary Clinton is so wounded both as a primary candidate and with all the baggage that she is carrying referencing the email scandal, referencing Bengazi, referencing the state department working with the Clinton Foundation,” Pennacchio said. “Those are powerful issues that can and will be used against her.”