Election Coverage / Government Watch / Politics

Can Republicans Score a Comeback in the Northeast? Only By Standing Up For Their Voters

AMAC Exclusive by: Daniel Roman


Before the 2016 election, left-leaning pundits often discussed the so-called “Blue Wall,” a collection of states totaling over 230 electoral votes which had voted Democratic in every Presidential election since 1988. On election night in 2016, Hillary Clinton captured Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico, states which had eluded John Kerry, only to watch the Blue Wall crumble when Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin went for Donald Trump. Nonetheless, even in 2016, Democratic hegemony on the Atlantic seaboard north of Virginia held. New England, New York, and New Jersey remained solidly blue in the Presidential contest.

Will this trend continue in 2022? New Jersey may well be an early indicator, as it holds elections for governor and state legislature this November. Incumbent Phil Murphy, elected by a 56%-42% margin in 2017 over former Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, is up for reelection against Republican State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. The race is in many ways a microcosm of the opportunities that exist for Republicans in the region, and the challenges they face exploiting them.

On paper, Murphy should be vulnerable. He has presided over not just the highest COVID-19death rate in the country, but one of the highest in the world, on par with Hungary, Bosnia, and the Czech Republic. That death rate has occurred despite one of the toughest lockdowns in the country. New Jersey has been willing to elect Republican governors in the past, most recently Murphy’s predecessor Chris Christie who won in 2009 and 2013. Murphy has also feuded incessantly with political bosses within his own party who might not be unduly troubled by his defeat.

New Jersey is a polarized state and tends to produce two types of elections: Democratic wins of between 10-12%, which have defined virtually every U.S. Senate race since 1992, and every governor’s race they won, or narrow Republican victories for governor. The difference, at least in part, seems to involve timing. Christine Todd Whitman in 1993 and Chris Christie in 2009, both Republicans, challenged incumbent Democrat governors who had overseen unpopular tax increases. Both elections also took place within the first year of Democratic presidents’ terms – identical to the situation Phil Murphy faces this year.

Yet Ciattarelli has struggled in the polls, generally lagging 12-18 points behind Murphy. On the surface, the situation looks bleak for Republicans. Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 2 percentage points more in 2020 than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 (57% – 41% vs. 55% – 41%). Moreover, in 2016, Donald Trump carried 5 out of 12 Congressional seats, as did Republican candidates. In 2018, Republicans lost 4 of those seats, reducing them to a single seat. While they regained one seat in 2020, it was by narrowly holding the seat of party-switcher Jeff Van Drew. Donald Trump only carried three out of twelve seats in 2020, despite only a 2% shift in overall margin.

But a closer look at demographic shifts driving these changes may reveal an opportunity for Republicans statewide. While Trump suffered substantial losses among suburban, traditionally Republican leaning voters in New Jersey, he also made major gains with Hispanic American and African American voters. However, these gains were often concentrated in heavily Democratic Congressional districts, leading to the down-ballot massacre for Republicans in congressional races.

Ciartarelli’s challenge then is that he either needs to win the new Trump voters, or try to recreate the old pre-Trump GOP coalition in New Jersey, many of whom did not just vote against Donald Trump but have voted against all Republicans in recent years. Ciartarelli’s own old assembly seat is represented by a Democrat, as Hunterdon County went from 58%-40% Romney in 2012, to 54%-40% Trump in 2016, to only 51%-47% Trump in 2020.

Can these voters be won back? Ciartarelli has the issues on his side: Murphy’s poor COVID response, Democratic corruption, and high taxes. But there is now a regionalist element. Much as Democrats are perceived as hostile to rural America, suburban dissatisfaction with the national GOP is driven not solely by ideology but by a perception that the Republican Party not only does not care about them but is outright hostile. Behind this perception is the memory of one of the few tax increases Republicans have passed in modern history. As part of the 2017 Tax Cut bill, Republicans eliminated the State and Local Tax deduction, or SALT which allowed taxpayers to deduct their entire local and state tax bills from their federal returns. In states with high local tax rates like New Jersey and New York, this represented a tax increase on many voters. Republicans were quick to note that with a $12,000 standard deduction this only applied to very well-off voters, but those happened to be Republican voters in states like New Jersey with high cost of living. Ironically, for these households, Democrats became the party of lower taxes.

The justification offered by national Republicans, that blue states should lower their taxes, or people should move, was self-defeating for local Republicans. Faced with a Democratic state government, Republicans in New Jersey, and arguably across the Northeast, had no influence over local tax policy and were effectively told it was their own fault they were unable to do something impossible. Any who took up the advice to move, are, of course, no longer part of the electorate Ciartarelli needs. SALT is painful for many, no doubt, but its real impact has been cultural, painting the Republican party as hostile to the region, and unconcerned with local Republicans within it.

How Ciartarelli approaches the SALT issue will be key, as it will be for Republican prospects in neighboring New York, where Congressman Lee Zeldin of Long Island, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, are early contenders to challenge Andrew Cuomo (assuming he even makes it to the election, given the scandals now engulfing his office). Cuomo faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct as outlined this week in a report from theNew York’s Attorney General. His handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially regarding nursing homes, has also prompted an investigation by the Attorney General.  Cuomo confronts the real prospect of   being impeached and removed from office by  a legislature controlled by his own party.

Zeldin, widely regarded as the GOP frontrunner, may face real headwinds from the SALT deduction, especially since he was a Republican member of Congress when the 2017 bill was passed. His own 1st Congressional district swung from 54%-42% Trump in 2016 to 51%-47% in 2020, and Zeldin won reelection in 2018 by a mere 4% after having won by 16% in 2018.

In many ways, Ciartarelli and Zeldin illustrate the challenges Republicans face in the Northeast. The media says these problems are either due to association with Donald Trump (false) or the national party (true). The real issue is less Donald Trump, who did decently with these voters, and more a perception that national Republicans did not look out for the interests of their own voters in blue states.

A contrast could be drawn with successful Republicans in New England, such as Charlie Baker and Phil Scott of Massachusetts and Vermont, both of whom have won landslide victories in Democratic states, and both of whom have broken with Donald Trump and the national party when politically necessary.

But evidence from New Hampshire indicates there is also a middle course. Governor Chris Sununu won reelection by a margin of 66-32% in 2020, even as Biden won his state 53%-45%. Sununu did not endorse Biden and made clear he supported President Trump. But he was also willing to make clear when he thought the President or national party were hurting his state, and remained loyal first and foremost to the voters of his state.

If Sununu runs for Senate and manages to unseat Senator Maggie Hassan next year, it will show a model that other Republicans in the region should look to follow. Republicans in the Northeast do not need to praise or flirt with Democrats. They do not have to repudiate Republicanism or Conservatism. They do, however, need to fiercely stand up for their constituents. What has harmed the Republican Party in New Jersey is not being insufficiently friendly to Democrats, but the perception that New Jersey and New York Republicans sold out their voters in the state for crumbs from the national table, whether it was with Christie going national or the repeal of SALT. Republican politicians need to fight for Republican voters everywhere, rather than abandoning those who live in “Blue States”. After all, if Republican candidates won’t fight for them, who will?

Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

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Ralph L Campbell
2 months ago

It Amazes Me, How Republican leaning publications leave out Jim Crow Voter Suppression That Allows Republicans in Georgia to Remove Democrat Election Officials in Fulton and Dekalb Counties and Replace them with Republican Loyalists. Proof NYT Apr 1, 2021 “Full Text: Georgia Voter Law SB202 read pages 11-12 of 98 Page Bill. 4 million People in Harris County Texas “1,777 square Miles “1 Election Drop Box, “1 Drop box For “2.7 Million People of Dallas County Texas. There are “26 Election Drop Boxes in Union County New Jersey “660,000 People, 690,000 square miles. Texas a 12 year old who has been raped or a Victim of Incest Forced to Have Baby by the State that Still has Not Fixed it’s Power grill, That Utilities Charged Average Texans $8,000.00 Monthly Bills pulled out of direct deposit accounts, in Winter. “OPEN CARRY GUNS” In Your Supermarkets, Malls, Parks and Public Streets, You must wait until the unstable person starts to shoot you and your child, instead of common sense of arresting a person with an AR-15 or AR-47 in Your Supermarket, Mall. New Jersey “4th Safest State In U S, #2 in Education. Please Compare Crime Rate and Murder Rate with Red States. Read AmericanProgressAction org Jan 26 2018″ President Trump’s Policies Hurting American Workers” Here is a list Of “53 Policies explained hurting American Workers” Here’s the Truth About Who Is Working For The American People” “67% of The Democrat Only(Not 1 Republican Voted For $211 Billion dollars going directly to “80 Million American Families, in ChildTaxCredit Checks, $250 per child per month per Family. **THIS MONEY BEING SPENT IN YOUR AMERICAN MAIN STREET BUSINESSES. $109 Billion for Farmers and Small Businesses, $56 Billion for Mortgage and Rental Assistance. ***You That Are Being Evicted or being Foreclosed on in Republican Run States, Ask Your Governors where is The “$18 Billion Texas Got From Democrat Only $1.9T American Rescue Plan. Ask Them Why are they Trying to Hurt You, because they want to hurt Joe Biden Administration, because the money is there to help you. Ask Them Why Class Rooms have more than “30 Children in Classrooms, When American Rescue Plan Gave $178 Billion to Schools to make all safety changes. Here is the Truth About Your Trump Tax Cut “87% of Deductions went To Top 5%, Went To Capital Gain Deductions, Stock Buy Backs, money that is hoarded, in Stock Buys, Off Shore Accounts and Foreign Business Ventures. That Money was not spent in your Main Street Businesses. Watch TYT Dec 30 2018″ Trump Huuge Tax Bill is A Total Hoax” truth about economy an economy for the Rich, Gold Price on Jan 2017 was $12.12 an oz, sign of an economy that is strong for the people, Unemployment was down to “4.7% from an Rate of “9,9% in 2008. “2.2 Million Jobs Created in 2016 and 75 Straight Months of Job Growth. Proof read “FACTCHECK org Jan 20 2017″ What President Trump Inherits”. Destroying our Democracy with Dictatorship Executive Orders Against Workers on October 22 2020. Read Stars and Stripes October 23 2020 “Trump Issues Sweeping Order Stripping Tens Of Thousands Government and Civil Service Workers of their Job protections” He Stripped them of their Right Not To Be Fired Without Cause! “How’s Republican Louis Dejoy Working out for The United States Post Office, After Destroying Tax Payer Paid for Mailing Sorting Machines, That Used to Sort “30,000 Pieces of Mail An hour, That Now Have Created an unnecessary backlog at Post Office and making the jobs of USPS Workers Harder. Read about Trump Jul 9 2017” Tweet “He and Putin(Ex KGB) Will Create A Cyber Security Partnership” His Words, Verifiable in Seconds, Washington Post, La Times, Etc. My “3 1/2 years of research to expose Trump’s more than “30, 000 Untruths Told, most documented By The Washington Post, Which Calls Them Pinocchio’s. Trump dismantled our Specially Designed Surveillance planes OC-135B That We Used To Surveil Russia, when He Lost Election and Left “OPEN SKIES TREATY” With Allies Since “Cold War” 1992. This was Treaty Established for Allies to Keep eyes on Russia. MSNBC Nov 24 2020. @RalphLCampbell1 Twit 6 hours a day, for the last 3 1/2 years only truth can expose The Truth About Republican Policies That Hurt The Security of the United States and The enhance the wealthy only. 10 Republicans Sat in Moscow on July 4th 2018″. Why do You Wonder Why Our Government agencies have been Cyber Hacked? Trump Appoints a Loyal Congressman with zero Intelligence Experience to head “17 Intelligence Agencies, “John Ratcliffe, Instead Of Commander Joseph Maguire or Deputy DNI Susan M Gordon with a Combined Experience of “60 Years of CIA, Intelligence and Navy Seal Experience.

3 months ago

Thanks for the excellent synopsis of the political atmosphere in NorthEast states. Lots of good points.

3 months ago

Unless and until there are election observers who continuously monitor the election results and insist that procedures are being followed and that photo ID’s are required to circumvent the “vote early and vote often” elections such as we saw in the last “presidential” debacle, it won’t matter what the pundits say. No Dimocrat or representative of the MSM sees any problem with Slow Joe only receiving a majority of votes from highly populated areas where the elections were most easily corrupted.

3 months ago

True science doesn’t support the mask, or lockdowns. Impeach Biden, no mask mandates, no vaccine passport. Not a penny until this happens. Republicans have developed a knee jerk reaction to anything the Democrats do, sending emails and text to raise money. Why don’t you introduce legislation to counter these overreaching? 

Johnny Davis
3 months ago

Republicans should be going after minority voters with the principles of the Founding Fathers that all mankind is made in the image of God and that is source rights and go against group identity. Republicans need to abandon crony capitalism and embrace true Free Enterprise. Minority voters would come in large numbers for a reformed Republican Party that truly was a party of Lincoln. Republicans would crush Democrats all over the nation.

Camille Gilliam
3 months ago

I agree with what you said about Republicans need to back each other to make them look even stronger and like they get along. The RINO”s need to go.

Johnny Davis
3 months ago

The problem is the Republican establishment simply does not believe in anything and really holds grassroots conservatives in contempt.

3 months ago

I support the RINO’s as they are doing the job they were elected for, and not doing everything just because that is what one party or POTUS wants them to do. We need to be Bi-Partisan again to do what is best for all American citizens.

3 months ago

It is true that the RINOs need to go. And, that is why we have Primary elections. It’s up to us . Lets not wait for the other guy to vote in the Primaries . Just simply make sure you yourself votes in the Primaries . Every single vote counts ! I know , cause i once won a small local election for a party post in a Primary election by just one vote . I remember that night well . I could see that not all the people who said they would vote for me were coming out to vote . So , i got on the phone and started calling . The last one i called was a women who said she had just taken a shower . I told her how much i needed her vote . Well , she came across the street in a terry cloth robe and slippers and her hair tied up in a towel and voted . I won by one vote .

3 months ago

Repubs have to get off their butts and start fighting. They are all lazy, non-committal, and don;t seem to care about anybody but themselves. Most of them ran to get involved in government because eventually they will be pulling in the $$$$$$ just like the Dems. Is Biden going to take 50% of the commies retirement……..doubt it. C’mon Reps, get going!!!!!

Jimmy Joe
3 months ago

New Jersey will get the governor it deserves. ( Glad I don’t live in New Jersey.)

George Kamburoff
3 months ago

As long as Republicans maintain the Big Lie, they will find themselves getting smaller and smaller.

3 months ago

The Biigest Lies are:
1) Russia Collusion Hoax
2) The Antifa/BLM riots were “mostly peaceful”
3) America was founded in 1619 and is systematically racist
4) The 2020 election was free of fraud
5) A guy in a Viking helmet and skins led an “insurrection” to topple the US government
6) The US border is secure

3 months ago
Reply to  Sharon

Are you saying it is acceptable that the rioters on Jan 6th can beat & terrorize the Capitol police that day —- when that poor person went to work that day to do a job he was hired to do which is the same as when most of us go to work every day. You do not have the right to beat on an innocent person & you should be punished if you do.

Brian Martalus
3 months ago

I am originally from Hunterdon county and have many friends and family still there-I can say first hand that many people that used to vote reliably Republican no longer do as they were turned off by the antics and culture war being waged by the National republican party (this pre-dates Trump). People in rural/suburban NJ were generally fiscally conservative that may have been somewhat socially traditional, but also socially tolerant. The Republican party is no longer the party of fiscal conservatism as both parties are happy to pile on more debt. Thus, I agree with the author-a Republican politician in NJ can do well if he/she focuses on local issues, good governance, and fiscal responsibility. I think if such a politician can politely but clearly show the excess wokeness of the current democratic party without being a blabbering culture warrior and remain fiscally conservative, they can win.

Will Mears
3 months ago

So the State Democrats continuous waste of taxpayer money, and resultant taxation demands, resulting in extremely high state taxation for New England citizens is the fault of Republicans who oppose the Democrats high taxation, and other Americans paying for it! Wake up America.

Dave F
3 months ago

The problem for Republicans is that their base is starting to move away from the Northeast. There’s a reason New York lost a seat and Florida gained. Republicans are starting at a huge disadvantage as the straight party voters are becoming more Liberal/Democrat and those that would vote straight GOP have moved out.

4 months ago

Good mention concerning the SALT deductions, which is a highly sensitive point in both NY and NJ. The problem is that giving in to the demand of “letting” the SALT tax limits be lifted should not also mean that those who get this benefit also get more deductions, too to avoid tax liabilities. Both states have the highest concentration of multi-millionaires and billionaires who also do nothing to help fund their liberal wishes. Just exactly where are the funds going to come from to cover all these wishes? Especially if they are not contributing their fair share of taxes. Most of this high income have means to lower their tax liabilities, by the reclassification of the source while pishing the tax burden for the state costs of operation on the decreasing income class that doesn’t get tax benefits and has to deal with increasing crime rates and less policing while the ultra-rich get a private police force to take care of their security needs. Housing prices and rental costs are outrageous forcing people to share housing with more than the safe number of individuals to afford the cost. We definitely need a radical change in attitudes of the politicians who are playing for power and money in their pockets only, and we certainly do not need the radical progressive movement being pushed by the AOC group which offers nothing but excessive spending but no solutions to the causes.

4 months ago
Reply to  MariaRose

Is this why AOC’s mother fled NY for Florida?

4 months ago

Where are our leaders. The Republicans are swamp dwellers, too. Money, money, money. They represent themselves, not the people.

Elton Yancey
4 months ago

Only if republicans grow some a set and start fighting back Most Americans want fighters,not sheep.

lana callahan
4 months ago
Reply to  Elton Yancey

I agree. We see a small handful of Republicans standing against the socialist left and it is disgusting and discouraging! Where are our leaders? Are they being bought or what else are we to think?

4 months ago

Only with additional issues like Cuomo’s. Otherwise, too many people want something for nothing – entitlements must go.

4 months ago
Reply to  par

Theone that needs addressing as far as entitlements are the ultra-rich liberals who feel they should control their version of the world for their betterment and leave the rest of us to fend with the mess they created. They don’t live with the homeless in their neighborhood, they create a protest, and all the homeless are rounded up and placed in the farthest part where it becomes someone else’s problem. They want to claim the state is a sanctuary place and then don’t fund proper housing, food, clothing, and education.

4 months ago

REMEMBER! Adolph Hitler won election the German Chancellery in 1933 by ONLY ONE vote! After that,,, VOTING in GERMANY did NOT Matter! From 1933 through 1945 the NAZIS NEVER had a majority in ANY Vote for anything! THEY had a PLURALITY by DIVIDING any and ALL oppositions into factions that COULD NOT Win! Stalin did it also but he STARVED and Murdered the opposition too. SOUND FAMILIAR???????

3 months ago
Reply to  JOHN

What you say is scary but true

4 months ago

The Republi-CANs, First have to grow a “set!” Then PROVE it!
Talking is just talking and rhetoric is just more talk!
We The People have to DO something SERIOUS and STAND together as Americans for America. There is a storm on the horizon and Americans By the Grace of GOD need to RAIN on the COMMUNIST Parade by any and all means possible.
I for one old Veteran did not serve in Vietnam and 12 years on active duty to witness this insanity.
I WAs there…. Sometimes I still AM… and READY to fight once more!

aluminum head
4 months ago

Roughly 80% + of black voters vote ( D ). What puzzles me is why most of the New Eng. voters ( 90% + white ) vote ( D ) communist and against the constitution. Has’nt a buzzer gone of in their “minds” that the ( D ) party is now communist controlled ?

4 months ago
Reply to  aluminum head

Ignorance knows no Bounds. Ignorant people can be TAUGHT because they do not KNOW. However STUPID People are just plain STUPID… You cannot fix STUPID.. ask the NAZIS, Marxists and DEMOCRATS?

aluminum head
4 months ago
Reply to  JOHN


4 months ago

Murphy in NJ will call for mail in elections only and win by a large margin. If it stays as in person voting Murphy will win by a closer margin. NJ is a deep blue state steeped in graft and union corruption.

3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Wow, that is a strong accusation against a state like NJ. You must have some kind of proof to say this.

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