GOP U.S. Senate nominee declared in his primary victory speech last Tuesday night that he would not that he would not alter his message nor parse his words during his special election campaign against Democratic nominee Cory Booker.
In his appearance with NJTV’s Michael Aron this weekend (video not yet posted), Lonegan presented himself as a reasonable fiscal conservative focused on the economy. He distanced himself from the Tea Party, which he characterized as an eclectic, leaderless network.
During an appearance MSNBC’s Weekends with Alex Witt yesterday afternoon, the former Bogota mayor again comes off as reasonable, not a radical, framed Booker as an extreme liberal and stuck to economic issues:
This morning on Fox and Friends (
also not yet posted Save Jersey has the video), Lonegan emphasized his Ridgefield Park roots, 32 year marriage, and two Gold Star Girl Scout daughters to make the case that he is representative of New Jersey and its values and that Booker is the liberal extremist.
Clearly and despite his vow not to change his rhetoric last Tuesday night, Lonegan has adjusted his rhetoric to increase his appeal to the general electorate. He would have been wise to make that adjustment in June.
Because Booker and his friends are going to go out of their way to present New Jersey voters with Lonegan’s history of extreme in your face rhetoric.
A Democratic PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, has come out with an attack ad against Lonegan featuring his best hits:
The Star Ledger’s Paul Mulshine writes that the ad could backfire and fire up the Republican base. I think that is wishful thinking.
The ad, and more like it that are probably on the way, could just a easily remind Lonegan’s former supporters in the conservative base why they left his side and convince moderate Republicans why they think Lonegan can’t win.
Prior to reviewing the primary results on Wednesday morning, Lonegan and his chief strategist Rich Shaftan seemed to be operating on the assumption that Democrats wouldn’t be motivated to participate in the Special Senate Election and that they could win on October 16 by ginning up New Jersey’s conservative base who would be more motivated to turn out to vote.
But New Jersey’s conservative base is fractured. Lonegan and Shaftan caused a lot of the fracturing in the base over the last four years and continued to do so as recently as the Saturday before the primary when the candidate suggested his primary opponent, Dr. Alieta Eck, leave the Republican party.
More than twice as many Democrats than Republican turned out to vote in the primary, indicating that the Dems are more juiced by the Special Election than Republicans are.
Now Lonegan needs the support of many conservatives and moderates that he has previously poked in the eye, rhetorically.
Lonegan’s challenges over the next 57 days are to 1) motivate moderate Republicans to get engaged in the Special Election. If he gets them engaged, they will vote for him and 2) convince Independent voters that is not an extreme radical conservative, at the very least in temperament, that Booker and Democratic PACs will be portraying him to be, with his own words.