Bill Pascrell’s landslide victory in the primary Tuesday was surprising to many. The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics Director Ben Dworkin told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider Pascrell’s win over Steve Rothman was an upset that nobody saw coming.
Dworkin said the way the new ninth district was drawn, the numbers indicated that the majority of voters — 60 percent — would be for Rothman. But when the votes were tallied, it was the opposite result.
The primary campaigns had been described as nasty with Pascrell and Rothman attacking each other during debates and in political ads, but Dworkin said Democrats will likely still come together for the general election. “There was some bitterness during this campaign but people will get over it,” he said. “I think everybody recognizes there’s a big election in November. Barack Obama from the Democratic perspective has to get reelected and people will rally around that even if they’re not going to be friendly with each other.”
Pascrell had the support of former President Bill Clinton while Barack Obama had spoken to Rothman in the days before the primary. Dworkin said the ties are rooted back to 2008 when Pascrell supported Hillary Clinton’s run for president while Rothman backed Obama. He said Clinton’s endorsement of Pascrell helped him because Rothman said he wasn’t a great Democrat. “That argument gets trumped when Bill Clinton comes in, throws his arm around you and says you’re a good guy,” Dworkin said.
In the 10th district, where Donald Payne Jr. beat out five other Democrats for a chance to retain his late father’s seat, Dworkin said the amount of funding, his name recognition and getting the prime spot on the ballot from the Essex County Democratic line likely helped him be victorious.
“A lot of people are ready to say he’ll step in and emerge,” Dworkin said. “His father was a tremendous congressman. I’m sure his son will be able to build on that legacy.”
Dworkin also weighed in on the upcoming race between Joe Kyrillos and Robert Menendez for a U.S. Senate seat. Kyrillos has said he won’t be able to raise as much money as Menendez, which Dworkin agreed with. “It’ll be a very significant uphill battle to overcome because New Jersey is so unique in terms of its political geography,” he said. “To reach the voters in this state in a campaign, you have to buy network TV. that means you have to buy New York and Philadelphia. That’s very, very expensive.”
On the presidential level, Dworkin said it’s unlikely Obama will face a Republican challenge in terms of ads. “Barack Obama isn’t going to face a real race because the Republican Party’s not going to put a lot of money in New York TV for this. They’ll spend in Ohio, Florida, Virginia,” he said.