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GOP Establishment Senses Opportunity in New Jersey

Or does it?

7:14 AM, Aug 27, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Do Washington Republicans smell blood in New Jersey? The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP's Senate campaign apparatus, issued a press release Wednesday knocking New Jersey's Democratic senator Cory Booker for being a "tax & spend liberal."

The release groups Booker with another incumbent Democrat, Alaska's Mark Begich, as two former mayors (of Newark and Anchorage, respectively) with liberal records. Here's an excerpt:

In 2010 on Mayor Cory Booker's watch, Moody's placed Newark's bond rating "on review for possible downgrade as the city has less than three months to close a $70 million current-year budget deficit." In Anchorage, Mark Begich left a near $17 million budget deficit for his successor. Mark Begich and Cory Booker are experts at spending their hardworking constituents' money (and more), mortgaging their futures by leaving families, seniors, and middle-class workers with an even bigger bill.

A Republican group criticizing a Democratic candidate—no surprise, right? Except that the NRSC up to this point hasn't said much of anything about the Senate race in New Jersey or the party's own candidate, Jeff Bell. For a while, the organization seemed to be accepting the conventional wisdom that Booker is untouchable in New Jersey. The NRSC hadn't even met with Bell before his primary victory in June, and a search of the group's website and release archive doesn't reveal a single mention of him. There don't appear to be any plans to help the vastly underfunded Bell campaign raise money, and a spokesman for the NRSC declined to comment on what the organization would (or would not) be doing for the Republican candidate.

Nevertheless, a steady stream of weak polling for Booker has put Bell within striking distance. A conservative activist and the 1978 Republican Senate nominee (he lost to Bill Bradley that year), Bell is running an unorthodox campaign in 2014 focused on the deleterious effect of current monetary policy on the middle class. His candidacy is even rankling Booker's Senate staff, one member of which said the 70-year-old Republican can "suck it."

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