Well before knowing who their candidate will be to run in place of U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson, Republicans say they're no more worried about losing the seat than they were before Ferguson decided not to seek reelection.
Their reason: likely Democratic candidate Linda Stender's performance in her supposedly safe Assembly re-election two weeks ago, when she beat her closest Republican opponent who spent almost no money by only 3,332 votes – a difference of about 7%. That, they say, is evidence that her 2006 election against Ferguson, which she lost by a single point, was more the product of a bad Republican year than evidence of Republican vulnerabilities in the district.
"Stender's staggering underperformance in her re-election for the State Assembly is further evidence that the people of New Jersey do not agree with her tax and spend record," said National Republican Congressional Committee Spokeswoman Julie Shutley in a statement.
Stender responded that her margins were pretty much the same as they were in 2003 – a similar off-year election with low voter turnout and no governor on the ballot. Back then, when turnout was about 10,000 higher than the last election, Stender got 29% of the vote to her closest opponent's 20%. This time around, she got 27% of the vote to her opponent's 20%.
And while Stender said that Ferguson's announcement would not change the way she waged her campaign, she's happy to find herself running for an open seat.
"In a blink, all of a sudden, I'm running for an open seat, which I think is good news for my campaign," said Stender, who said that she accepts Ferguson's explanation of not seeking re-election to spend more time with his family "at face value."
Stender said that any candidate who runs against her will be saddled with the legacy of the most unpopular president in recent memory, and that the anti-Bush wave she nearly rode to victory in 2006 has not receded.
"What we're seeing is a general recognition that the failure of the last six years is not just going to go away -It's not going to dissolve," said Stender. "Look at what the Republican candidates are doing – they're not disavowing George W. Bush and his policies. Any republican running for this seat is going to be saddled with this."