In a wave election, where even New York's Republicans (a dysfunctional party if there ever was one) picked up five seats (with zero help from Carl Paladino at the top of the ticket), New Jersey could do no more than flip one seat. And even that victory, in CD-3 with a celebrity candidate (former Eagles lineman Jon Runyon), was a squeaker, with a victory margin of just under 6,000 votes.
In CD-12, Anna Little ran one of the most spirited campaigns in America against liberal stalwart Frank Pallone, and at best made a dent in his armor, losing by 11%. In CD-12, Nancy Pelosi clone Rush Holt escaped with his life, and a 53%-47% victory, against a self funded millionaire.
What to think? Well, it looks as if no one save a Democrat can ever win Pallone's district. The deep-blue Union County is so heavily Democratic, overwhelming victories would have to be achieved in the remainder of the district (on the order of 15%) in order for a Republican to take the seat. No one has ever worked harder than Anna Little, no Jersey congressional candidate has ever gotten more positive national press than Anna Little, and the outcome wasn't even that close. Attacks by a local media in the tank for Pallone didn't help, but it wasn't a difference-maker, either...
A shame. Sorry, Anna.
CD-12 is a bit more complex. Regular readers of this blog will know I was an early supporter of Mike Halfacre, mayor of Fair Haven - more of a Little-style populist with good grassroots support - to run for the seat, but the local Republican party choose millionaire investment banker Scott Sipprelle, a late entrant who got selected because...he was a millionaire. And while I bemoaned this, especially as Anna Little gained fame - looking at the results I am not sure Halfacre could have done any better. Sipprelle, while lacking the energy of the two aforementioned candidates, was able to get on the air pretty consistently with ads combating most of Holt's smears (he having little else to run on). But the final week may have turned the tide against Sipprelle here, as Holt hit the airwaves with a huge cash dump, making outrageous (and false) claims against Sipprelle that he did not have the time or remaining funds to counteract.
My concern is that if Holt can win even in a wave year against a well-funded opponent, well...who will run against him in 2012? And yet, it is possible that - if Obama refuses to see the error of his ways - 2012 will be another wave year, and there will be one more chance to knock off this liberal halfwit. If there is any consolation, as I mentioned yesterday, it is that Holt (and Pallone) will be limited in the damage he can do in the minority...!
But what of New Jersey as a whole? Are we a reflexively blue state, despite the election of Chris Christie? Are we simply another California, constantly retreating into the safety of tired voting habits, despite their consistently destructive outcomes, while occasionally stepping out of character for the governor's seat? Will we - like New York, possibly the worst offender - continue to elect representation that works against our best interests?
The 2012 election, as well as the upcoming contests for the Senate seats of the fairly unpopular Lautenberg and Menendez, will tell. In the meantime, Jersey will have to settle for one flip, which will be more than some (think Connecticut) and less than other, previously blue states (think Wisconsin).
Let's see if we learn anything in the next two years. Maybe watching California melt down in a sea of debt, and watching New York self-destruct in an orgy of corruption, will help give us a clue about we need to do next...