As the Republican gubernatorial primary lumbers to June 2nd, one has to wonder exactly what the strategy is that Steve Lonegan is pursuing after last Tuesday’s debate.
Chris Christie, once again stated his claim to be a conservative which is a departure from history. However, Lonegan never challenged him on that point.
Christie stated he would cut the income tax, cut corporate taxes and reduce the size of government. Again, Lonegan did not challenge him on how.Earlier on in the campaign, I offered some comments to the Christie campaign about what they needed to do both in the primary and general. Whether or not they took it seriously is anyone’s guess. However, I think it is time to look at Lonegan’s strategy or lack thereof.
So far, we have heard a lot about the flat tax, cutting 20,000 government jobs, redistributing school funding and a host of other ideas that to me are a bit complicated to fully grasp. In addition, while the papers keep writing about Lonegan being the “conservative” it is Christie who keeps talking about it. If he remains unchallenged by Lonegan, Lonegan will lose the most important platform that he has going for him.
The second thing that about the Lonegan campaign is the lack of rebuttal to any of Christie’s comments concerning the things Christie says he will do.
Steve Lonegan is so focused on presenting his own agenda that he is missing an opportunity to go after some of the comments being made by his opponent. While it is nice to have a plan or an agenda, every campaign has to have balance. Right now I don’t see that coming from the Lonegan camp.
The point is that it is not about being far right and moving to the center during a republican primary it is about staking a position, making it understood to the voters and balancing the position among what you want to do, how you are going to do it and striking a contrast with your opponent.
Lonegan has taken a clear stance about a number of issues and said how equalizing school funding would work, how the flat tax would work but a lot of what he says is too undefined and should he win the primary, he will have to do yeoman’s work to have the electorate understand what he is talking about in the general.
As to contrasting himself from his opponent, if Lonegan is supposed to be the conservative, why is he not saying it and instead letting Chris Christie make that claim as blatantly as he is?
In Christie’s case he started in the middle, saw that he was losing ground to the conservative base and had to change. So, he is doing what is necessary to appeal to an audience who will make up the voter block that will turn out in a republican primary.
Lonegan, on the other hand, started in one place and has remained there. Now this is all fine, but once you stake your territory, you have to either defend it or maintain it. I believe that Lonegan has been doing well so far, but that by the simple fact of Christie saying over and over and over that he is the conservative in the race, it is starting to make people believe that it may in fact be so.
The final issue is campaign staff. My insider information is that Christie has maintained a fairly stable campaign operation while the Lonegan campaign has had difficulty maintaining staffers. It has not been money that has been an issue, but difficult work conditions and unreasonable demands.
No matter who survives the primary, a stable campaign staff will be critical to a successful primary campaign and right now that looks to be running in Christie’s favor. However, the staff is not on the ballot.
What all this boils down to are two candidates who have their own issues that they have to address. Chris Christie has to be believed as the conservative in spite of past history and he has to start addressing specifics as to how he says he is going to do anything he claims.
Steve Lonegan needs to reclaim his status as the conservative and not let the newspapers simply say it. Second, he needs to challenge Chris Christie on specifics and finally, find a way to have people understand what his proposals mean to them.
Now more than ever, as a former presidential consultant once said, “it is the economy, stupid!” So, no matter, what, the economic issue will be front and center and the man with the most understandable and believable plan, that benefits the most number of republican primary voters will prevail.
And, it might just help either prevail in November.