If GOP Captures the House, Frelinghuysen and Garrett Become Major National Players

From now until Election Day, 2010, I will be focusing my columns on the United States Senate and House of Representatives races, both inside and outside New Jersey.  In analyzing the races, I will rely primarily on two tools: 1) the RealClearPolitics.com website; and 2) the Intrade prediction markets.

The RealClearPolitics.com website averages all recent polls to arrive at its own poll estimate in any particular contest.  The site currently shows the Republicans ahead in 203 House races, with the Democrats leading in 199.  There are 33 toss-up House races, of which 32 are in districts with a Democratic incumbent, one with a Republican.  In order to win control of the House, the Republicans have to win 15 toss-up races.  Given the fact that RealClearPolitics currently shows the Republicans maintaining a 6 point lead nationwide in generic Congressional balloting, it is safe to say that the GOP has an outstanding chance of capturing at least the necessary 15 seats, thereby gaining control of the House for the first time since 2007.

The Intrade market confirms this today by rating the GOP with a 73% chance of capturing the House.  It is beyond the scope of this article to explain how the Intrade political prediction market works, but suffice it to say that the Intrade market has often been a more reliable predictor of elections than the various polls.  The people who buy future prediction contracts on this market are usually very sophisticated investors who often seem to have more “inside knowledge” than even the most prominent national pundits.

A Republican takeover of the House of Representatives will have special significance for New Jersey.  Specifically, it will almost certainly mean that Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen (R- NJ 11th) and Scott Garrett (R- NJ 5th) will become major national players.

Frelinghuysen is currently serving as the ranking Republican member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.  Garrett serves as the ranking Republican member on the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises.  These are two of the most significant subcommittees in the House of Representatives.  Both these Representatives will doubtless become chairs of these subcommittees in the event of a Republican takeover of the House.  Once again, Frelinghuysen will become a House “Cardinal” – a chair of an Appropriations Subcommittee.

Even more significantly, if the Republicans retain control of the House in the 2012 elections, both Frelinghuysen and Garrett have a realistic chance of becoming chairs of the Appropriations Committee and Financial Services Committee, respectively.  This would give the New Jersey Congressional delegation power over critical national issues which it has not enjoyed for some time.

I have maintained close personal and working relationships with both Rodney Frelinghuysen and Scott Garrett for nearly two decades, as far back as when both were serving in the New Jersey Assembly.  It gives me a special sense of pride to see both these gentlemen become major players on the national stage.

Rodney Frelinghuysen served as chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee after the Republicans captured veto-proof majorities in both the state Assembly and Senate in the 1991 elections.  His superb knowledge of state government and finances, together with his close cooperation with the then Assembly Speaker Chuck Haytaian and Senate Budget Committee Chair Robert Littell resulted in the passage of a budget for FY1993 that reduced the proposed spending plan of then Governor Jim Florio by over $1.1 billion and the sales tax by one percent.  As Senior Policy Advisor to Speaker Haytaian, I worked closely with Rodney in crafting the FY 1994 education budget.  I found that Rodney’s intellect and warm, collegial personality made him a pleasure to work with.

After being elected to the House of Representatives, Rodney found a natural home on the House Appropriations Committee.  During my service as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA in the second term of President George W. Bush, I had the good fortune to work closely with Rodney once again.  He monitored closely the process of Superfund remediations within his district and displayed an admirable concern for environmental issues of national concern as well.  It gave me much pleasure to witness the enormous respect given to Rodney by members on both sides of the political aisle.

As for Scott Garrett, it is fair to say that he is perhaps the most underrated person in New Jersey politics over the last three decades.  As a Congressman, he has been a true profile in courage in opposing the wasteful bailouts that were enacted after the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008.  His focused, sharp criticism of the Dodd- Frank financial “reform” legislation gave him national publicity and won him plaudits from leading players in the political, academic, and financial worlds.

Since his first election to the House in 2002, every two years one hears talk of a Democratic candidate or an insurgent Republican defeating Scott for reelection.  That talk has now ended for good.  Scott keeps winning reelection by overwhelming margins.  He is the most popular “movement” conservative in New Jersey, and any effort to deprive him of reelection by placing him in a district with another House member will fail totally.

Congressman Garrett has also become a prodigious fundraiser as well.  Having raised more than $1.2 million for this cycle, he has vaulted to the front of the pack, becoming the strongest fundraiser in New Jersey’s Republican Congressional delegation.  Since he will only have to spend a fraction of that amount on this year’s race, he will be in an unbeatable position in the 2012 election as well.

On Election Night 2010, you will here national news commentators talk about the roles that the new Republican Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor will play in the next House of Representatives.  In forging their agenda, Boehner and Cantor will doubtless find themselves working closely with Rodney Frelinghuysen and Scott Garrett.  That will be a major plus for New Jersey’s influence on the national scene.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations.

If GOP Captures the House, Frelinghuysen and Garrett Become Major National Players