With one of us being a resident of the fifth district and having to be represented by the odious Scott Garrett, we had hopes that this may be the year that he would be sent home for good. However, even with polls indicating that the race was closing and closing fast over the last few weeks, as well as a pretty unfavorable view of the incumbent Garrett, major endorsements for challenger Dennis Shulman (a candidate with one of the best backgrounds, personalities and personal stories of this entire cycle) and events with prominent and popular Democratic Congressmen and Senators, three debates where Garrett looked the damn fool and a final week influx of $85,000 by the DCCC, the final results ended up being closer to 2004 than continuing to close the gap that 2006 challenger Paul Aronsohn was able to cut to near single digits.
And with this, we started to wonder how a race that, by many accounts, was potentially a tossup, ended up a 14% rout.
While trying to analyze the results, the campaigns that both Shulman and Garrett ran – including the late-in-the-game influx of disgraceful ads paid for by the NRCC and the results of past races, we came up with more questions than answers. The biggest and first question is whether this district is even remotely winnable by a Democrat. We say this not as fatalists, but as people who have realized the value that building up a sustainable infrastructure can bring, as people who know how very different each county is within the district and as people who can sense some very basic flaws in what little infrastructure has been built up in the district. On a more fundamental level, we wonder if the Fifth has earned the respect to receive an earlier endorsement as a “Red to Blue” district or earlier financial support from the DCCC – both of which could have certainly helped, but the distinction and funds may have also been better served in more winnable races earlier in the cycle.
Before looking at the vote breakdown, and trying to see where things could have changed in this cycle, it is fairly evident that the district will be extremely tough to win in one cycle – especially if we don’t start to build up critical infrastructure now. In Bergen County, the BCDO is a mess, to say the least, with Ferriero in, shall we say, “hot water,” and no indication as to if or when he will step down from his Chairmanship. With this matter still in limbo, it would be very difficult for a Democrat to run on a “clean government” platform and be taken seriously enough to flip a 53/47 deficit to a 52/48 win in the county. It isn’t an accident that there was such a disappointment that even the top Democratic Freeholders saw a near 20% dropoff in her votes from Obama, as noted today in the Bergen Record.