21-County Strategy: Richest Counties in America Went for Obama – NJ’s the Anomaly


We need a 21-County strategy in New Jersey. Outlook can only get better.

Eight of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. went for Barack Obama in Tuesday’s election, including Somerset County, NJ.

Only two of the richest went for Romney, and they’re both in New Jersey – blue New Jersey.

Unite and couquer … after the jump.

Morris County, by census figures the 9th wealthiest in the country, came out for Romney 55-44%. It will surprise no Hunterdon resident that the split was greater there in the 5th richest; 59-40% Romney.

Class warfare was a recurrent theme in the 2012 election; the Republicans accused the Democrats of it, while they themselves played it whenever possible, to distract voters from what their standard bearer had to say about 47% of his fellow citizens, or the nearly party-wide sensibility that if people lose their homes trying to pay for uncovered pre-existing conditions, or are otherwise falling through America’s cracks, it’s their own fault for being lazy and shiftless.

And yet, plenty of wealthy Americans with their heads screwed on straight returned an imperfect model president back to the White House over a soulless businessman who celebrated their class as though it was the only one that mattered.

Hunterdon and Morris counties share a common border, and with crimson wastelands Warren and Sussex counties – not quite as wealthy, plenty red – form the northwest corner of New Jersey, where Democrats are electectable only in pockets, where some of the best Democratic candidates who run meet defeat. These counties abut 7th wealthiest Somerset, which voted for Obama 52-47%, had the largest Obama bump in D party affiliation in 2008 and is undergoing demographic changes with an influx of people from from the more progressive north and east that those other counties will surely soon see more of.

All of this argues for an initiative to link the best Democratic strategists and activists in New Jersey’s northwest together, along with party leaders, to share ideas and best practices and plan together for beefier, smarter and better-funded campaigns down, and eventually up ballot. It’s the kind of thing that should be obvious if Democrats were still thinking like they were during Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy. It’s 21-County strategy, and it’s about time.

Shout-out to my people in NW New Jersey ….

Comments (15)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    If the powers that be were not willing to invest a few thousand dollars to help Marie Corfield win a very winnable Assembly seat in a very winnable LD that was created more for the purpose of ending Reed Gusciora’s political career than increasing the Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate, because the powers that be don’t want to spend money on the re-election efforts of elected officials who they might not be able to control, which is exactly what LD16 could produce once all of the votes are finally counted and regardless of the outcome, Marie and two other equally progressive running mates run for State Senate and State Assembly respectively next year, there are surely not going to invest any resources in developing Northwest New Jersey.

    The party bosses here in NJ are smart enough to see that Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy not only made it possible for Barack Obama to overperform in states like Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia during the 2008 general election, but even more important than that, it also made it possible for him to overperform in some of the reddest states in the country during the primary election, which enabled him to amass a huge number of delegates from places that were beyond the control of the Democratic establishment in Washington, DC that was primarily behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

    This more than anything is the reason why the bosses and the NJDSC that they control is never going to invest in NWNJ.  They know that the Democrats who live in counties like Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex, and Warren are amongst the most independent and progressive in the state and any elected officials that are elected from there are going to be just as independent and progressive.

    The Democratic establishment has as large of majorities in the Assembly and Senate to accomplish what it wants to do with its allies in the Republican establishment.  The last thing that they want is to have these majorities increased with people who are operating outside of the their orbit and are more inclined to align with insurgents.

    They also have more than enough voters within their sphere of influence to win the statewide elections that they want to win and lose the ones that they want to lose.  The last thing that they want to do is add voters that are outside their sphere of infuence, complicating both general and primary elections.

    If you want a 21-county strategy, Rosi, you have to build it yourself.  You have to build a New Jersey Progressive Democratic State Committee that is going to help elect progressive Democrats in both primary elections and general elections everywhere in the state.  If there is anyone who can do this, Rosi, it is you.  With a communications tool like Blue Jersey and a grassroots organizing tool like DFA-NJ, you have the power to do anything and everything that you want to do and make the Democratic Party anything and everything that you want it to be.  In fact, you might be the only one who can.

    The question is, do you want to?

  2. Steve M

    Another one of the richest counties in America is Oakland County, Michigan, where Mitt Romney grew up and went to school.  Until recently, this was solid Republican territory.  It went to Obama 54-46%.

  3. Erik Preuss

    that suggest a 21 county strategy is feasible? If so, than it’s probably a good idea. That being said, I don’t necessarily think Obama winning those counties means Dems can be competitive on a state level in Northwest NJ. People who would come out and vote democrat for the president are not likely to be nearly as engaged or aware of what is going on in state level elections.

    Also, if the above isn’t advising the state committee to implement this strategy, who do you think should put it into place Rosi?

  4. Stephen Yellin

    Some data from ELEC reports:

    The state Democratic Committee spent $14,945 for direct mail the week before the election. In addition, they spent $60,845 for direct mail during the month of October.

    Considering the NJDC reported $157,000 cash on hand at the end of September, that’s a significant investment imho.

    I should add that Assemblyman/Chairman Wisniewski contributed $7,000  from his campaign account between August and Election Day.

    To be fair, the Republican State Committee contributed a smidgen under $100,000 during the same October period, according to ELEC. That being said, they had a lot more $ to work with thanks to Christie.

    Do I believe we need a 21 County strategy in New Jersey? Absolutely.  Should we seek to bring in more support (organization and $) to “red” areas? Absolutely.

    Does that mean we should take whacks at the Democratic Party like a pinata at the same time? Absolutely not.

    I should note that I contributed to Marie’s campaign as an unemployed graduate student; believe me, I wanted her to win! I simply feel we need to be objective if we’re going to push for the kind of 21-County plan that will allow Democrats like her to win.  

  5. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    Too many of your solutions for things involve things you list for me to do.

    I’m not about bashing the state committee here on this. And my post wasn’t necessarily directed at those folks, either. There’s work to be done which is not necessarily have to be centralized.  

  6. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    is where I grew up from 7th grade through part of HS (nearly going to Cranbrook Schools where Mitt ‘n Ann met, and spending most weekends at their Art Institute or Science Institute, which were near my house). And I lived there twice as an adult.

    The auto industry used to dominate that place and Mitt, the Governor’s son, grew up steeped in the corporate culture of Bloomfield Hills. But Mitt, who appears to be little more than the soulless corpo that he looks like, was fine with Detroit – meaning the auto industry that fed him well in his youth – die. And Obama was not. That means something in Oakland County. So does the fact that Detroit itself is just on the other side of 8 Mile Road. And that city’s life and death matters in Oakland. And if you think Camden is in trouble ..

  7. Stephen Yellin
  8. Bertin Lefkovic

    …who wrote the diary about the need for a 21-County strategy.  I simply explained why this is your need and not necessarily the need or the want of the political machine bosses who control the NJDSC.

    You are the one with an award-winning blog, Blue Jersey, and a statewide organization, DFA-NJ, at your disposal.  Even if I thought that I could remake the wheel at this point in time, which I couldn’t and shouldn’t have to, because I was involved along with others with the creation of one of those entities, I wouldn’t, because it would be a tremendous waste of time and other resources.

    You don’t necessarily need to do anything more than what you are currently doing.  You simply have to do what you are doing somewhat differently.  You simply have to recognize that the Democratic establishment has a much different agenda than the progressive community and these agendas are in many ways mutually exclusive.

    I think that if you sent an e-mail to every member of DFA-NJ in the state, asking them if they wanted to help create a progressive alternative to the NJDSC, you would get an enthusiastically positive response.

    But I can only guess that such an e-mail will never be sent, because that is not the response that you want.  I can only guess that you would like to continue to be perceived by the political machine bosses as someone who can keep the progressive community simultaneously engaged and in line, and you know as well as I do that this perception would change if you sent such an e-mail.

    Linking the best Democratic strategists and activists in NWNJ together, along with party leaders, to share ideas and best practices and plan together for beefier, smarter and better-funded campaigns down, and eventually up ballot is not enough.  That is for all intents and purposes a five-county strategy.

    You/We need to unite progressives throughout the state, not just in the neglected parts.  Progressives in blue counties need help to beat the Democratic establishment in primary elections and progressives in red counties need help to beat Republicans in general elections.  They are different agendas, but unlike the aforementioned, they are not mutually exclusive.

  9. Bertin Lefkovic

    If you follow the link from my comment, you will find the following:

    Two Democratic Party sources told PolitickerNJ.com that Corfield is having trouble raising money from her party, which worries about having to bankroll her re-election next year against a GOP ticket topped by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

    I don’t think that it is taking whacks at the Democratic Party like a pinata to talk about serious problems that our party has with regards to the way it operates and the degree to which it is controlled by political machine bosses whose agendas are more closely aligned with those of our state’s Republican Governor than the interests of their constituents.

    While you are looking at ELEC reports, I would be curious to know how much the Assembly Democrats, which is run by Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, who is one of the many acolytes of George Norcross, contributed to Corfield’s campaign. This, more than any reason, is why, win or lose this year, Corfield should run for State Senate against Kip Bateman next year. She has a much better chance of getting money from the Senate Democrats, led by Loretta Weinberg, next year than from Greenwald and the Assembly Democrats.

  10. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    You now appear to have moved from telling me what I should be doing to telling me what I’m thinking.

    Barking. Wrong. Tree.  

  11. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    What kinds of numbers would you be looking for?

    As to who should implement a 21-County Strategy … If I thought the state committee worldview was copacetic to that kind of organizing, I would say Democratic leadership was in the best position to do that. After all, 50-State Strategy was implemented at the DNC level (with considerable buy-in from the state parties, who saw that they would benefit by resources shipped to them instead of back and forth inside the Beltway). But DNC 50-State Strategy isn’t in favor in Obama’s arc – they like to centralize resources. So, the moment for NJDSC to emulate DNC in a local version of that kind of strategy probably has passed.

    I always thought the NW red counties contained some of the best-read, most alert activists – in the party, or as activists, or as candidates even. Some of them are mighty frustrated. I’d probably start there with them, loop in county and local Dem leaders (and hope the locals would replace them if they weren’t active), candidates past and present. Some of the best people I know in those regions are deeply committed but could benefit with 3 things: (1) planning (which is why sharing best practices and ideas can help) (2) strategy and method (training here is essential) (3) fundraising (I’ve long thought that Democrats in these areas would much rather see their money go to local efforts – if they were clearly going to be well-run – than towards a party whose direction is often run by machines in both ends of the state, particularly when they have enabled Christie).  

    It wouldn’t be overnight. It would be an uphill climb. And there would have to be considerable bench-building and local party-building, via county committee. But that’s how I’d do it.  

  12. Erik Preuss

    I meant essentially polling numbers that would indicate there is ground to be broken in NWNJ. If there is any reason to think seats can be picked up there, I think it’s worth a shot.

    As far as how to go about it, I agree. I think fundraising is the most important of the three keys you listed. There are a lot of people in red counties throughout NJ on the state level who would be more amenable to voting Democrat if they knew a little more about the candidates who are running.

  13. Bertin Lefkovic

    I don’t disagree with you about the quality of progressive activists in red counties.  The problem is the quantity and while the solution that you prescribe is a workable one, limiting its application to NWNJ will make progress so slow that whatever progress is made will most likely be eroded at the same time by attrition and frustration.

    A true 21-county strategy pools the resources that you describe above that exist in varying numbers in every county in the state and applies them where they can best accomplish our goals and objectives at any given time, which could be determined collectively through any manner of statewide consensus development.

    Progressives in blue states need just as much help during primary election season as progressives in red states need during general election season.  While it is unlikely that a progressive in Cape May County is going to travel to Newark to help a progressive candidate there, he or she might be willing to help a progressive candidate in a primary election in Cherry Hill.  Conversely, a progressive in Teaneck should be willing to help a progressive candidate in a general election in Sussex County.

    A New Jersey Progressive Democratic State Committee (aka DFA-NJ) could bring progressives together from every county in the state to serve the greater good.  All they need is to be asked to do this by someone they listen to and respect.  I would be more than happy to do the asking, but you know as well as I do that you are the person that progressives throughout the state listen to and respect.

    But, once again, I have to ask whether or not a true 21-county strategy is what you want.  Are you as invested in helping progressives win primary elections as you are in helping Democrats win general elections, especially if implementing a true 21-county strategy puts relationships that you have within the Democratic establishment at risk?

  14. Bertin Lefkovic

    And I am not telling you anything.  I used the word guess, because all I can do is guess why you don’t use Blue Jersey and DFA-NJ to accomplish the goals and objectives that you set out here in your diary.

    You have taken over a wonderful blog that Juan Melli created and everything that you and others have done since has only served to make it even better with every passing year.  You have a statewide organization, DFA-NJ, that could be a de facto New Jersey Progressive Democratic State Committee if you wanted it to be.

    These two elements as much as anything could be the foundation for a 21-county strategy.  You have talked about a 21-county strategy for some time now, but you have never utilized the resources that you have at your disposal to make this dream a reality.

    Why is that?  Is it because you don’t want to put the relationships that you have within the Democratic establishment at risk?  If not, then what is the reason?

  15. Bertin Lefkovic

    Republicans definitely have a voter registration advantage over Democrats in these areas, but there are enough unaffiliateds that have never been sufficiently engaged to know whether they are mostly undeclared Republicans or truly persuadable independents, which brings us to the chicken and egg question.

    Because progressives in blue counties need just as much help during primary election season as progressives in red counties need during general election seasons and because the chicken and egg question can never be answered until we try, I think that a 21-county strategy is worth trying regardless of what the data would say.

    Another approach to the problem would be to rescind all of the anti-development/pro-environment laws that inhibit the relocation of progressives from blue counties to red counties, but I think that progressives in red counties would agree that the ends most certainly do not justify the means.


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