Forrester„s Got A “Right” Problem, But the Wrong Answers

By Steve Adubato, Ph.D. The Republicans in New Jersey have a problem on their right and gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester is feeling it big time. Forrester is being savaged in TV ads paid for by Democrat Jon Corzine stating that Forrester has the wrong position on a variety of important and sensitive social issues. We are talking about abortion, stem-cell research and guns. In the last week or so, Democrats have successfully painted a picture of Forrester as a far-right politician tied at the hip to the anti-abortion, out of the mainstream conservative crowd. The Corzine ads say that Forrester isn’t REALLY supportive of a woman„s right to choose. The Democrats say he is wishy-washy on embryonic stem-cell research and that he is not a strong proponent of gun control. In New Jersey, if a candidate holds these positions, it is virtually impossible to get elected in November. It is a very predictable Democratic Party strategy to paint a Republican statewide candidate as “far-right” and out of the mainstream. They did it to Republican gubernatorial candidate Brett Schundler four years ago and even though Forrester is not Schundler (he is a much nicer guy) the Corzine folks would have you believe otherwise. Then again, Doug Forrester has brought a lot of this on himself. In order to win the crowded Republican primary, Forrester had to do two things. First, spend a ton of his own money and second say that he was just as conservative as the other Republican candidates when it came to hot button social issues. He did it on abortion by highlighting his opposition to late term abortions and his support for teenage girls having to notify their parents before they received an abortion. Yet, now Forrester proudly proclaims himself as an ardent supporter a woman’s right to choose and only later tacks on these caveats to his pro-choice stand. In fact, just this week Forrester received a big endorsement from the Republican Majority for Choice, an organization of Republican men and women who are moderate on social issues. Clearly, Forrester is trying to move to the center and make himself out to be a “Tom Kean/Christie Whitman” Republican. The problem is that in order fight back and respond to the Corzine attacks that he has the “wrong right-wing positions” on social issues, he has alienated the hard-core Republican base. Many in the social conservative wing of the Republican Party are peeved at Forrester. This includes Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan who ran for governor in that crowded Republican primary with strong support from the anti-abortion crowd. Published reports this week have Lonegan accusing Forrester of doing a “dodge, weave and morph” on abortion, stem-cell research and other social issues. But after Forrester received the endorsement of the Republican Majority for Choice, Lonegan really lashed out; “I was going to keep biting my tongue (but) you can„t spit in our faces”. Conservative Republican political consultant Rick Shaftan was quoted in The Star-Ledger as saying; “How does Doug Forrester win if he doesn„t get 90% of the Republican vote?” Obviously we are not talking 90%, but it is a significant number of Republicans who are less than thrilled with Forrester right now. Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, has attacked Forrester for moving to the center and disrespecting his conservative supporters. Says Tasy; “He has alienated them. They are disgusted. The lesson he should have learned is that this strategy doesn„t work¦.” She predicted that many of these Republican voters will stay home on November 8 instead of voting for Forrester. That„s the crux of problem many statewide Republican candidates face. The conservative base of the party believes deeply that they are right on issues like abortion and stem cell research. What Forrester and some other perplexed Republican candidates don„t understand is that many of these passionate, and some say zealous, conservative Republicans would rather lose an election and still be true to their principles. So when Forrester was asked the question in the last televised debate about his position on public funding of embryonic stem cell research, he immediately starting talking about his daughter Briana who suffered a brain injury and would benefit from stem-cell research. He never really answered the question of public funding in the debate. I imagine this was Forreseter„s effort to take the “middle ground” on the issue and not answer it directly. The problem, however, is that Democrat Jon Corzine is a very vocal and consistent supporter of public funding on all stem-cell research as well as abortion. Forrester„s never going to get the vote of women whose primary concern is protecting a woman„s right to choose. But in the effort to compete with Corzine, Forrester turns off large numbers of Republicans, both men and women, who call themselves pro-life and believe that embryonic stem-cell research is tied directly to their cause. Simply put, on these issues Forrester just can„t win. For a significant number of voters, there is no middle ground on abortion, stem-cell research and to a lesser extent, guns. You are either pro or con, for us or against us. There are no gray areas, no complex explanations, even though these issues are terribly complex. I don„t know if Forrester is going to win on November 8, but if he doesn„t, his campaign will have proven once again that the Republican Party in New Jersey has a big problem on its right and has no idea how to fix it.

Forrester„s Got A “Right” Problem, But the Wrong Answers