The House passage of the American Health Care Act immediately changed the 2018 election dynamics for two New Jersey congressmen, according to an analysis by the Cook Political Report on Friday.
Cook modified its predictions for Rep. Leonard Lance’s 7th District and Rep. Tom MacArthur’s 3rd District, moving both slightly to the left following the health care bill’s passage. The two Republicans played drastically different roles in the debate over the AHCA — MacArthur was an architect of the GOP health care plan; Lance was one of 20 Republicans voting no.
Several Democrats are lining up already to challenge both Republicans in next year’s elections.
MacArthur’s seat went from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican,” according to Cook. The report mentioned a potential Democratic challenger, Andrew Kim, an ISIS adviser who served in the Obama administration. But it cautioned that Democrats will “badly need to make inroads into Ocean County to have a chance.” It is one of New Jersey’s most heavily Republican pockets. During the 2016 presidential election, President Trump got almost 65 percent of the vote there.
“Congressman MacArthur has emerged as a leader in the fight to fix our broken healthcare system, lower premiums so people can afford quality health insurance, and protect the most vulnerable so nobody is left behind,” said MacArthur adviser Chris Russell. “The people of Burlington and Ocean counties want a decisive leader and a problem-solver, and they have that in Tom MacArthur.”
MacArthur would welcome a challenge from Kim, he added. “As for Andy Kim, he was Barack Obama’s top ISIS adviser when Obama called ISIS the ‘JV team’ and allowed them to gain strength and terrorize Americans and innocent people all over the world,” Russell said.
Lance voted no on the House floor on Thursday, and also opposed an earlier version of the AHCA in March, but he did vote to release a version of the bill in committee. His district went from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” after the health care vote. Cook said “Democrats intend to use his vote to advance the legislation in committee against him.” In 2016, Lance got 54 percent of the vote when he was challenged by Democrat Peter Jacob, but Trump narrowly lost his district to Hillary Clinton in November. A political survivor for years, Lance is a moderate who has staved off challenges from Tea Party-backed candidates.
Jim Hilk, Lance’s campaign manager, said the congressman is the “only Republican” who can win the 7th District following Clinton’s 1-point victory there in November.
“I’m not sure political prognostication 19 months before Election Day is very useful, but it’s no secret that 2018 is going to be a challenging year for Republicans nationally,” Hilk said. “The good news is 7th District voters have an honest, principled, thoughtful, fiscal conservative in Leonard Lance.”
The Cook Political Report shifted ratings favorably for Democrats in 20 districts nationwide but noted that the stretch of time between now and the 2018 midterms is an “eternity in politics.”