WOODBRIDGE – The McCain campaign opened up its New Jersey/New York regional headquarters here in the heart of hail fellow blue collar country on New Brunswick Avenue.
"New Jersey is McCain country," declared New Jersey State Campaign Chairman Bill Baroni, flanked by fellow Republicans, including Sen. Thomas Kean, Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, state Sen. Kevin O’Toole, state Sen. Leonard Lance, Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton, Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan, Morris County Sheriff Ed Rochfort, and Ed Cox, chair of the New York McCain campaign, among others.
"We are here, we’re campaigning, we’re competing, we’re building a grassroots organization, we’re opening it (campaign headquarters) in the heart of Reagan Democratic country," said Baroni, who also at least once invoked what New Jersey Republicans call the "Baroni model," or hardcore shoe leather-style campaigning.
This is the first time in 16 years that a Republican candidate for president has had a headquarters in the state, Baroni noted. Much like that president, their candidate is an across-the-aisle Republican, the GOP affirmed.
"The American people want someone who can reach across partisan lines," said Cox, packed among Republicans on the second story of a building in a light industrial spillzone a few blocks away from a Pathmark where shopping carts banged across pavement.
"Woodbridge represents the kind of population we have to carry to win the state," said Cox, the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon who started working on presidential campaigns in 1968.
Lance, who’s running against Democrat Assemblywoman Linda Stender to represent the 7th Congressional District, said, "It’s clear Sen. McCain is going to carry both New Jersey and New York," said Lance. "From Buffalo to Cape May. …I’m proud to be running on the ticket with John McCain."
Kean was up next.
"Sen. McCain can bring so many people together," he said. "There’s an energy and enthusiasm you see here in this room and as people make phone calls around New Jersey and New York. We will be working our heart and soul to make sure John McCain wins not just Woodbridge, but all of New Jersey."
The invocation of "Reagan Democrats" inevitably prompted a press challenge about Reagan’s 1980 campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, Mississippi where he dove into the deep South to win disgruntled Dixiecrats on an anti-government message.
"I don’t think that happened in New Jersey," said O’Toole. "When you talk about Reagan Democrats, you’re talking about my father, that type of worker whom Reagan reached out to and converted. These were the people who had Kennedy portraits in their living rooms."
Baroni and O’Toole said they’re going after Hillary Clinton supporters for starters, and the HQ’s placement in Woodbridge also sends a signal they mean to bring aboard Latinos and African Americans, they said.
Five full-time staffers will run the headquarters and coordinate volunteers. Baroni intends to work closely with State Campaign Coordinator Rick Mroz and state co-chairs.
In addition to regional campaign manager Bill Stepien, the co-chairs include state Sen. Jennifer Beck, Atlantic County GOP Chair Keith Davis, DeCroce, Camden County GOP Chair Rick DeMichele, Donovan. Peter Kane (former state chair, Huckabee for President), state Sen. Sean Kean (R-Monmouth), Kean, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, Assemblywoman Allison McHose, Morris County Freeholder John Murphy, O'Tolle, and Rochford.
While Republicans rallied, Democratsbristled at theworking class invocations and quickly fired off a statement from Democratic State Committee Chairman Joseph Cryan.
Cryan linked McCain not with Reagan, but someone whose name the GOP avoided at the press conference: a nearlybottomed outsitting president, whomthe Democratic chairman identifiedthree times in a release.
"We welcome John McCain to New Jersey because the more attention hegets here the more the voters will be convinced that a vote for Mr. McCain is the same as voting for a third term for George Bush," Cryan said.
"He subscribes to the same economic policies that Bush used to drive the economy into theditch, he is willing to keep American soldiers in Iraqfor 100 years, he favors Big Oil over consumers and he supports taxpolicies that favor the wealthy at the expense of working families," Cryan added."WhenNew Jersey voters listen to John McCain's message they'll think they'rehearing the echo of George Bush."