Campaign staffers for Republican congressional candidates Leonard Lance and Chris Myers say they expect President Bush to show up for their joint fundraiser Monday, even though he's canceled fundraising appearances in Florida and Alabama to deal with the economic crisis.
Meanwhile, Democrats across the state are putting together a game plan, intent on not letting the unpopular president's private appearance go unnoticed by New Jerseyans.
A poll released today by Strategic Vision put Bush's New Jersey approval rating at 20 percent.
While the president attends a $1,000-per-head fundraiser in Colts Neck, Democrat Linda Stender, who's running against Lance in the 7th Congressional District, is using the appearance to motivate volunteers and recruit new ones. She plans a "Day of Action for Change," during which they will "make phone calls, knock on doors, write letters to the editor, distribute yard signs, and just generally get the word out."
Stender has also put up a Web site that mocks Lance – pointing out that he took the word "conservative" out of his campaign slogan and placing his image next to Bush's. The president's upcoming visit, of course, is prominently featured on the front page.
John Adler, who's running against Myers in the 3rd Congressional District, plans a tour of the district's areas that have been blighted by what he sees as Bush's economic policies.
Expect to hear many references to Myers's statement in April that "the economy is basically strong" and to see it compared to recent statements by John McCain and his allies.
"I suspect Chris Myers wants to get every dollar he can from all the people who believe in George Bush, and mask the fact that he and George Bush share a philosophy that's harmful to America," said Adler, who was at the AARP's state office in Princeton to watch Gov. John Corzine sign his Predatory Annuities Prevention Act into law.
"I'll be other places talking about how New Jersey needs real help with economic policy, better jobs, better infrastructures and a good energy policy," he said.
While Monday's fundraiser will not raise money for U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), it will take place in his district. To highlight that, Smith's challenger, Josh Zeitz, will hold a "kitchen table discussion with families impacted by the Bush/Smith economy" in Brick.
Republicans responded that the Democrats' frequent attacks tying them to President Bush are the result of a bankruptcy of ideas.
"Voters in the 7th district have once already rejected Linda Stender's negative campaigning. Fake websites and more negative advertising cannot hide the fact that Linda Stender has a long record of more taxes, more wasteful spending and more Jon Corzine rubber-stamping," said Lance Campaign Manager Amanda Woloshen. "It's why Stender is doing poorly in the polls against Leonard Lance, why pundits say she has 'an image problem' and why national Democrats are beginning to have buyer's remorse."
Woloshen said that Stender – who has raised $1.2 million with help from national Democrats – has bragged about her support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee compared to Lance receiving nothing from national Republicans. This event, she said, is co-sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee — proof that they're paying attention to Lance.
Myers Campaign Manager Chris Russell said that he's not surprised that Democrats delight in the opportunity to publicize the fact that Myers is raising money with President Bush's help.
"They've been doing it for months, so in that regard it doesn't make a difference at all. But at the end of the day… if you think about it, their argument is that a president who won't be in office by the time Chris Myers is sworn in is going to control him," said Russell.
Russell used Gov. Corzine – whose approval ratings in New Jersey are negative, though nowhere near as low as President Bush's – as an albatross for Adler, who he said has been a "rubber stamp for Corzine and McGreevey."
Asked today whether Adler planned to bring the governor in to campaign with him, Adler said that he hadn't talked to him about it.
"I've talked about federal issues. I'm running as John Adler and what I would do to help the country," he said.
Russell also said noted that his own campaign's poll shows a close race, but with Adler running behind Myers – despite Adler's 10-1 monetary advantage.
"A few weeks ago they were beating their chests, and now they're scared," he said.