Consider two candidates in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District.
- Lifelong Democrat with a 100% Planned Parenthood rating.
- Cosponsored amnesty legislation.
- Favored extreme gun restrictions.
- Reportedly voted against the president’s position 94% of the time, including the border wall, Paris Climate Agreement withdrawal and Obamacare reform.
- Was described as “obsessively anti-Trump.”
- Was a “Trumpist” before Trump on issues such as trade, Republicans favoring Wall Street over Middle America, secure borders, infrastructure, preserving Social Security and Medicare and deep-sixing Obamacare.
- Supported the president from day one. The motto for his own 2016 Congressional run: “Make South Jersey Great Again.”
- Worked in the administration to advance its Social Security agenda.
- Has an unimpeachable pro-life record.
So which candidate got a rhetorical wet kiss and presidential endorsement before a rally of some 7,500 rabid Trump supporters at the Jersey Shore?
If you guessed Candidate #1 – Democratic-congressman-turned-Republican Jefferson H. Van Drew – you’ve put your finger on why the GOP has gone so far astray and will never be positioned to solve America’s true ills.
Required disclosure: This commentator is a longtime friend of Candidate #2 – Bob Patterson, former W Bush and Trump administration official, pro-family advocate and conservative pundit – and has contributed to his congressional campaigns.
Though parts of the Trump-Patterson agenda – such as putting old-age entitlements off-limits and boosting infrastructure spending – veer in wrong directions, the South Jersey native would be a solid vote both for Trump and a conservative agenda, especially on core social issues.
Which is why the early and fervent pro-Trumper, who naturally objected to the GOP’s embrace of his primary opponent in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, should have basked in The Donald’s warm physical and oratorical embrace. Not, as Patterson’s campaign refers to him, “Switcheroo Van Drew” – who was recently captured on voicemail stating of the president, “I haven’t supported him. I didn’t vote for him.” And who even since his conversion has written Democratic donors insisting, “I have not changed.”
It’s obvious why the career left-of-center politico was showered with an endorsement and his own Trump mega-rally. Van Drew delivered one of two treasured Democratic votes allowing the president’s side to make the thin claim that opposition to the sham impeachment charges was “bipartisan.” And he gave the chief executive another “victory” in the selfsame week with his touted leap to the GOP side of the aisle (and away from a Democratic primary race where polls showed him a certain loser).
The Van Drew switch and subsequent mutual loyalty vows were certainly an ego boost and adrenaline rush for Trump. But it’s equally clear why the Prez’s nod is a long-term error. As is across-the-board support for Van Drew from the New Jersey Republican establishment – after some apparent arm-twisting, including, Patterson charges, demands for signed endorsements in exchange for VIP tickets to the rally.
Start with last week’s abandonment of Trump by Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney on the impeachment votes.
Or perhaps go back a bit further: to 2013, when sore-loser Virginia establishment Republicans were labeling GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli as an “extremist,” even as their U.S. Senate counterparts were savaging and isolating Ted Cruz in his lonely battle to stop Obamacare.
Cuccinelli – a compassionate conservative who started an anti-sexual assault organization as a University of Virginia student before it was cool – lost narrowly. And within a month of colleagues going full-Brutus on Cruz, Obamacare computer systems were crashing and Americans were getting kicked off health care plans. (The confluence of events causing your correspondent, a former Reagan campaign speechwriter and once-committed Virginia GOP foot soldier, to exit the party and never look back.)
Seven years after their last real chance at a party-building gubernatorial win, the Virginia GOP is in shambles, with a radical Democratic governor and legislature laying waste to abortion and Second Amendment protections. And the Feds’ health care takeover has taken hold, and may even expand if Democratic 2020 presidential candidates have their way.
The calamities of 2013 and since demonstrate that while conservatives comprise the GOP base, the balance of power is held by its left wing, which habitually deserts leadership and sabotages conservative reforms – and candidates – at every opportunity.
Perhaps, for now, Van Drew will keep his pledge of “undying support” for the president. (Though he seemingly backtracked within hours, and a Washington Examiner analysis finds he has supported the president only 66% of the time as a Republican so far.)
But suppose Van Drew wins re-election over Patterson and a cadre of Democratic contenders (including a Kennedy relative) itching to take him down, and manages to entrench himself. It’s only a matter of time before the newly minted northeastern “centrist” casts a McCain-style decisive vote against GOP efforts to fix health care. Or Collins-lite, against Planned Parenthood defunding. Or Murkowski-esque, against the wall or immigration restrictions.
Bet on it.
To remain a relevant force, Republicans must continue to drive for smaller, smarter government – and maintain morale. So in the June 2 primary, New Jersey 2nd District GOP voters should look past the self-serving pablum they heard from the stage in Wildwood and protect the president from himself – and the conservative base from another establishment wolf in Republican clothing.
Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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