National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman and Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Tom Cole says he isn’t especially worried about New Jersey in 2008, even though Republican Congressmen will likely be playing defense in at least three districts and his party is not poised to gain a single seat.
Instead, Cole said, problems with the state legislature will eventually take a toll on the Democratic Party’s popularity, translating into future vulnerabilities.
“We’ll wait and see as to who’s vulnerable and who’s not,” said Cole, during a conference call with reporters. “Honestly, over time the kind of mess in New Jersey state politics will probably give the Republicans an opening, just like when Gov. Whitman came out of the cold.”
Cole’s Democratic counterparts are openly targeting three Republican incumbents: Mike Ferguson, Jim Saxton and Frank LoBiondo. Strong contenders have already announced that they plan to run against Ferguson and Saxton, while there’s been speculation that Assemblyman/state Senate candidate Jeff Van Drew may mount a tough challenge to LoBiondo.
Cole, however, had more to say about Van Drew than about Linda Stender or John Adler, who are definitely running.
“(Van Drew) is in a legislative race now as I understand it, but he’s kind of what you want if you’re running in New Jersey,” said Cole. “He’s got a record, and if he gets in a race with LoBiondo I suspect it will be pretty intense.”
But, Cole said, LoBiondo has shown independence from the Bush Administration on key issues to the district and has support from labor.
“I think these are actually three of our very toughest and best campaigners,” said Cole. “They’ll all be well funded and well positioned. You will never catch them by surprise.”
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Carrie James responded said that"the winds of change are blowing in New Jersey," and not in the Republicans' direction.
James said that Bush's approval rating will only further hurt Republican candidates in a Presidential year, while the Democratic candidates will have more funds to buy up time in the Philadelphia and New York media markets.
"Congressmen LoBiondo, Saxton and Ferguson are in for the race of their political lives," said James.