Tuesday’s election was a big win for New Jersey’s Democrats beyond the four Assembly seats they picked up.
Overall, Democrats garnered a greater percentage of the votes cast than in either 2013 or 2011.
An analysis of the unofficial results, with 99.3 percent of all precincts reporting, found that Democratic Assembly candidates won 53.4 percent of all the votes cast on Tuesday. That’s more than 5 percentage points higher than two years ago, when then-popular Gov. Chris Christie was atop the ballot and won with 60 percent, and 2 points higher than in 2011, when the Senate topped the ballot and candidates were running in newly drawn districts for the first time.
The increased support for Democrats was near universal as well, even in districts they did not win. Democratic candidates took a greater percentage of the votes cast in 2013 in 36 of the state’s 40 districts, or 90 percent of all. And they boosted the percentage of the votes they got in 80 percent of districts, or 32 total, in 2011. Those percentages might have been higher had the Democrats fielded a team in the 8th District, covering parts of Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties.
The increases ranged as high as nearly 14 percentage points in the 32nd District in Bergen and Hudson counties, which is strongly blue. In the red 30th District, Democrats got almost 11 percent more this year than in 2013.
While they may have used somewhat different terms, numerous political observers said Christie had at least something to do with the better showing by the opposing party.
“It was a massive rebuke to Gov. Christie,” Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor, told the crowd at The Morning After discussion on Wednesday at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. “Christie has become a toxic brand for the Republicans in New Jersey.”
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the governor was a factor in the results, but was not as harsh as Roginsky.
“Republicans have Christie-fatigue and particularly feel little enthusiasm for their legislators who have basically let the party atrophy in the service of Christie’s ambitions,” he said.
John Weingart, the associate director of Eagleton, said this was not something anyone expected to see during Christie’s first two years in office.
“It certainly seemed during Christie’s first years in office, that he was so dramatically changing the political discussion that he could be ushering in a long-term positive era for the Republican party,” Weingart said, noting that Democratic campaign ads were boasting how the candidates were working with the governor from the opposite party. “I think it’s pretty clear that has not been the case.”
Weingart noted that polls show Christie’s popularity has dropped over the last two years, and the Democratic party is growing. He also attributed at least some of this year’s success to better financed Democrats who ran good campaigns.
Murray agreed, saying “Democrats have been getting much better at micro-targeting,” or using direct marketing and data mining techniques to target potential voters and then craft messages designed to get them to vote Democratic.
At the same time, according to Murray, “we saw an exceptionally low Republican turnout this year.”
Roginsky said Tuesday’s results should serve as a wake-up call for the Republicans to start to vote as their constituents want and not what will make Christie, who did not campaign for any Assembly candidate, look good in his presidential campaign.
“If they are smart, they will do what is best for their own careers and not for this governor and his presidential ambitions, which have pretty much petered out by now,” she said. “They will understand that this state is not Iowa … this state has views and issues they need to address.”