I have been a baseball fan since 1955, and I will never forget the evening of Saturday, October 26, 1991. That was the night that Kirby Puckett hit the home run in the bottom of the 11th inning in the Minneapolis Metrodome that gave the Minnesota Twins a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game Six of the 1991 World Series. It was also the night that John Adler made New Jersey political history by launching the first campaign commercial ever shown on network television in a New Jersey legislative race.
When Puckett hit his historic home run, the immortal sportscaster Jack Buck announced on the telecast the now famous words, “into deep left-center…..and we’ll see you tomorrow night!” Immediately after that and before the local news, South Jersey viewers saw a John Adler for Senate negative commercial against Lee Laskin, the then incumbent state senator in New Jersey’s 6th legislative district. Ten days later, on Tuesday, November 5, 1991, Adler defeated Laskin.
1991 was the year of a Republican tsunami in New Jersey, resulting from the electoral revolt against the tax hikes enacted by the then Governor Jim Florio. In an election in which Republicans won veto-proof majorities in both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, John Adler was the only Democrat who unseated an incumbent Republican legislator.
In 2010, as an incumbent Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, Adler faces another Republican tsunami, this time on the national level. The GOP will certainly capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and it has a better than even chance of gaining control of the U.S. Senate as well. While 1991 was the year of the New Jersey anti-Florio tsunami, 2010 is the year of the national anti-Obama tsunami.
Election Day is three weeks away, and in order to retain his 3rd District Congressional seat in the face of a national Republican landslide, Adler will once again be seen on his campaign television commercials during a World Series. There is an unfortunate irony in this for Adler’s Republican challenger, Jon Runyan.
As a star offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, Runyan was often seen on games on the Fox network. The Eagles are an NFC team, and Fox carries most of the road games of NFC teams. The 2010 World Series will be seen on the Fox network. Unfortunately, due to Runyan’s limited campaign coffers and Adler’s ample war chest, it is Adler, and not the star athlete Jon Runyan, who will be seen on a most significant Fox sports telecast series in prime time.
The recent Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll showed Adler clinging to a three point lead within the poll’s margin of error, 42%-39%. The Runyan campaign does have three significant assets going into the final three weeks of the campaign.
The first and foremost is Governor Chris Christie. The Governor is highly popular in the 3rd Congressional District, and he has been a most effective campaigner for Runyan.
The second is campaign consultant Chris Russell. He has created an effective campaign strategy in linking Adler to Nancy Pelosi, a message which thus far has been well received in this traditional Republican district. Russell is also the Runyan campaign’s most effective communicator.
The third is George Gilmore, Ocean County Republican Chair. Gilmore is the most effective Republican county chair I have seen in New Jersey over the last three decades, and he doubtless will ensure a good Republican turnout in the Ocean County portion of the district.
Adler also may have been hurt by the recent contretemps about his campaign’s role in getting “NJ Tea Party” candidate Peter DeStefano on the ballot in an effort to take votes away from Runyan. In a year where the voters are most cynical about incumbents, the press stories regarding l’affaire DeStefano are hardly helpful to John Adler.
Nevertheless, the Adler monetary advantage is a major factor going into the last three weeks of the campaign. His campaign is capable of buying a total of $1,000,000 of network television time per week, to be evenly split among New York and Philadelphia television stations. A New York Yankees – Philadelphia Phillies World Series would skyrocket the viewership ratings in the 3rd Congressional District for the five games scheduled prior to Election Day, Tuesday, November 2, 2010.
I have written previously about John Adler’s enormous political and public policy skills. His campaign consultant, Steve Ayscue is one of the Democratic Party’s most competent and effective strategists nationwide.
Both Adler and Ayscue will have to be at the top of their game in fashioning a compelling and persuasive message to viewers of the 2010 World Series. The message must convince voters that John Adler would be more effective than Jon Runyan in creating jobs for the citizenry of the 3rd Congressional District. Adler must also communicate to the electorate in this Republican district his independence from President Barack Obama, as demonstrated by his vote against ObamaCare.
It is not easy to fashion such a message within thirty and sixty second commercial spots. Ayscue has skillfully created such commercials in the past, however, and the extent to which he is successful in doing so in 2010 will determine the outcome of the Adler-Runyan contest.
This race is literally too close to call. In baseball terms, the Adler-Runyan contest may go into extra innings on Election Night.
One thing is certain, however. To get the largest possible viewership of their campaign television commercials, both John Adler and Steve Ayscue will be rooting for a New York Yankees-Philadelphia Phillies World Series. Although they are both fans of the Phillies, the participation of both the Yankees and the Phillies in this year’s baseball Fall Classic is as important to them as the outcome of the World Series itself. For John Adler and Steve Ayscue, baseball must take second place to politics in Election Year 2010.
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. Under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.