Campaigning New Jersey style: Cindy McCain stumps at a diner

RED BANK – In quintessential New Jersey fashion, potential First Lady Cindy McCain made her first solo public campaign stop today at a diner.

With State Sens. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) and Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) at her side, McCain shook hands and briefly conversed with patrons at the Broadway Diner in Red Bank, sharing the usual niceties we’ve come to expect at such events.

On her way out, McCain took one question from reporters about whether her husband, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, actually had a shot at carrying a state no GOP presidential candidate has carried since 1988.

“Absolutely. We’ve not written off New Jersey,” she said. “This is a very important state. We’re going to be up very late on November 4th, and New Jersey is a very important part of that. We intend to be here quite a bit before the election. I’m happy to be here on a great day. It was stormy a few days ago so maybe I brought the sunshine with me.”

The diner stop occurred just after a fundraiser at the Rumson home of Lewis Eisenberg, a prominent Republican fundraiser and former Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. McCain campaign officials didn’t estimate how much they raised at the event. Baroni, who heads up McCain’s campaign in New Jersey, said about 300 attended.

Baroni has pledged all along that McCain would campaign in New Jersey, and so far he has made an unusually large number of visits to the state. McCain has made three public appearances here this year – in Hamilton, Pemberton and Jersey City – and will likely squeeze in a public appearance before his fundraiser tonight at the Teaneck Marriott. And Baroni keeps count of how long it’s been since Barack Obama visited the state — 190 days.

“The stop in Red Bank is the start of a great campaign day here in New Jersey,” said Baroni.

Among the customers at the diner was a dressed down Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), who won his seat on Beck’s ticket last year. He was having lunch with his new wife of nine days, Heather O’Scanlon, and his Aunt/employee, Reva Boll.

To O’Scanlon, the Monmouth County voters who sided with his ticket over former incumbent State Sen. Ellen Karcher’s are the ones who are likely to go for McCain over Barack Obama.

“Monmouth County is, I think, representative of the thinking swing voters in the county, and to choose elected officials based on policies they advocate, which is why I think they’ll go with McCain, by the way, and why they went with Jennifer Beck,” he said. “We need to make sure that people don’t get caught up in the media frenzy surrounding Barack Obama, and decide who to vote for based on the best interest of the people of this area. And in that respect, John McCain wins hand-down – he should get every vote.”

According to Beck, Cindy McCain’s speech at the Rumson fundraiser was “a very personal conversation about her husband’s characteristics as a leader" about "what she sees in (her husband) that she believes will serve our country well, and it was very moving,” said Beck. “It wasn’t a typical political speech.”

Meanwhile, Beck said that the middle-class squeeze her party often complains about makes the state ripe for Republican picking – finally.

“I think the climate in New Jersey, with the poor economy, makes McCain’s message very appealing. He understands that new taxes are not the way to solve our country’s problems, and that will absolutely resonate with the citizens of our state,” she said.

“Jon Corzine has laid the groundwork in New Jersey for McCain to have a big win here,” said Beck.

Campaigning New Jersey style: Cindy McCain stumps at a diner