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August 15, 2018

There isn’t even the width of a greenback between voter support for U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) and his Democratic challenger Andy Kim as they face the November mid-term election for New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District seat. The Monmouth University Poll finds a mere 1 percent dividing them, with support for the incumbent MacArthur at 41 percent compared to 40 percent for Kim. Fifteen percent of voters are undecided.

While the 3rd District is seen as a battleground in the mid-terms and therefore is a must-watch for political operatives on both sides, the poll finds it hasn’t captured much voter attention. Not even half (49 percent) say they have a lot of interest in the election; this is the lowest interest level found in seven midterm House races that Monmouth has polled in the past two months.

The challenger Kim, who was an aide in the administration of former President Barack Obama, is trying to wrest a seat that MacArthur first won by 10 points in 2014 and was re-elected to comfortably in 2016.

MacArthur is considered one of the more bipartisan House members. But he’s also seen as a stalwart of President Donald Trump, who hosted a fundraiser for the congressman at his Bedminster golf club. According to the poll, 25 percent of voters say MacArthur has been too supportive of the president, more (31 percent) say he has given Trump the right amount of support, and 7 percent say he has not been supportive enough.

The 3rd District takes in two distinct geographic areas — the eastern Ocean County section is strongly Republican and registers strong support for Trump; so, it’s no surprise that MacArthur is well ahead of Kim there (47 percent to 32 percent). The western Burlington County section encompasses several Democratic areas where Trump is unpopular; and that’s where Kim is outperforming MacArthur (47 percent to 37 percent).

The two candidates might see cause for concern in the poll’s favorable-unfavorable ratings: Voters give MacArthur a 30 percent favorable to 19 percent unfavorable score, while a surprising 52 percent have no opinion of their current representative. Kim scores 20 percent favorable to 11 unfavorable among voters, but here’s the red flag for him — the great majority of voters (68 percent) give no opinion of him.

“Both candidates will need a combination of tactics to motivate their base and persuade undecided voters. The relative weight they give to these strategies is going to play out differently in the eastern and western parts of the district for each campaign,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

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