The implications for movement conservatism in Lonegan, Doherty, Carroll – and Christie

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It's hard to look acrossno-man's landa day before Election Day and avoid the sight of three familiar figures once again battling other primary opponentsfor political survival: gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan, Assemblyman Michael Carroll (R-Morris Twp.) and Assemblyman Mike Doherty (R-Washington Twp.).

The three men call themselves movement conservatives, and as Lonegan attempts to gut through what most pundits calla likely Chris Christie Republican gubernatorial victory; Carroll finds himself in a three-way Assembly race in the 23rd District with two big money behemoths; and Doherty, also down cash,runs as a renegade against establishment candidate state Sen. Marcia Karrow (R-Raritan Twp.), it'sconceivable to see this triumverate of right-wing alliesstanding at the edge of a three-way wipeout.

"I'll tell you tomorrow when the polls close," said Doherty, when asked about the implcations of aLonegan-Doherty-Carroll loss on Tuesday.

"We all think we're going to win," he added.

Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray said each man runs in different circumstances and as such hesitated to draw fast conclusions about the conservative movement in New Jersey based on how each performs tomorrow in his respective race.

"If all three went down, it would be for idiosyncratic reasons more than ideological reasons," said Murray.

Dumped by the joint Warren-Hunterdon County GOP organizations at a special convention earlier this year, Doherty off the line has tried to out-conservative conservativeincumbent Karrow byfronting hispro-life, anti-gay marriage stands.

Murray believesDoherty's position as an underdog has mostly to do with the fact that he comes from the slightly smaller county (Warren) in the district and lacks organizational backing in the larger county (Hunterdon).

Karrow's endorsement by the National Rifle Association (NRA)lends credence to Karrow's essential argument that Doherty is, in the end, ultimately no more conservative than she is; however, their race from the beginning has been defined by Doherty relying on conservative code and his miltary storyline,and Karrow emphasizing her pragmatism, local government experience and local roots.

In his own fight for re-election, Carroll admitted he is alert to the battlefieldmovements of the other two men, his longtime political allies.

The implications of all three losing, he said, would "be the same as they were when Barry Goldwater lost in 1964 and when Ronald Reagan lost in 1976."

"Conservatism enjoys one simple advantage over every other theory of government: it works," Carroll added."And sooiner or later, the people will come to realize that they can be bankrupt socialists underwriting bankrupt companieswith make-believe money, or prosperous free men."

While Doherty has actively aligned himself with Steve Lonegan's gubernatorial campaign in two of the state's most conservative counties that comprise the 23rd District, Carroll has avoided the Christie-Lonegan feud in the 25th.

"OUt of courtesy to both Rick (longshot gubernatorial candidate Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham)and Chris, I've stayed out of gubernatorial politics," said Carroll.

Dismissed as a sure-bet loser many other times over the course of his 14 years as an assemblyman, Carroll this time faces re-election without the endorsement of the county GOP chairman, who's finally fed-up with Carroll's brand of libertarian-style conservatism that prizes doing nothing over attempting to make something happen with the unwieldy and destructiveinstrument of government.

There is no line in Morris County, where Carroll competes, makingit more likely for him to prevail in hisindependent conservative bid.

But thereare lineselsewhere, in key Lonegan strongholds like Hunderdon, Atlantic, Middlesex and places wherethe gubernatorial candidate vainly strove for organizational support like Ocean, Monmouth, and Bergen.

"I think if Lonegan loses it will be less a rejection of staunchly conservative ideology than an indication of the importance of the party lines," said Dr. Brigid Harrison of Montclair State University.

Less significant than a Lonegan loss,would behow Christie- better funded and with a better name ID -has been forced to win, she said.

"Despite Christie winning, he will do so with conservatives having exacted a cost," said Harrison."Lonegan has cost Chris Christie in terms of bank account, strategy and message.

"Christie has had to say he's pro-life and against gay marriage," Harrison added. "He has emerged as much more conservative than what party startegists would have wanted headed into a general election in a Democratic-dominant state. I'm not sure that's the kind of rhetoric you want."

The implications for movement conservatism in Lonegan, Doherty, Carroll – and Christie