New Jersey's Third Congressional District is officially up for grabs.
9:00 AM, Oct 27, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
I ask Runyan why the race is so close considering before Adler, the district had voted for Republican Jim Saxton continuously since 1992. He said that even though his opponent is still in his first term, he already had incumbent advantages (including fundraising that has far exceeded Runyan's efforts). Is he getting enough assistance from the RNC? He said he was satisfied but added, "we can always use more." And then I asked him about "Tea Party" candidate Peter DeStefano who, as Jonathan V. Last noted (citing the Courier-Post), isn't a Tea Party candidate at all but rather a creation by opponents to split conservatives' votes. Runyan brushes it off, calling the stunt a "desperate effort." And when I note that the race is a toss-up at the moment, he simply gives me an intense stare (I imagine the kind he's used against his NFL opponents) and says, "We'll see."
Runyan's speech is reminiscent of the captain of the football team running for class president: "It's time for a lot of honest people to put their foot down and to take control of this country, give it back to the people that work their tails off to make a living. We all know we can't do it alone. And as a team, the sky's the limit. With the intensity of this room, it's not going to be a problem. One step at a time, one minute at a time.... It's not going to be easy, but we're fighting. We're gonna kick some tail, and we're gonna have a heck of a party on November 2." Wolverines Rule!
All kidding aside, the lack of rhetorical flourish is a breath of fresh air. Again, he is taking a page out of the Christie playbook of plainspokenness—the polar opposite of Barack Obama. And yet Christie's tough talk can bring a reaction as strong as Obama's speeches on the campaign trail. Even before he says a single word, the governor receives rousing applause while the DJ plays Springsteen's "Glory Days."
Everyone in the room knew Christie had arrived because the protesters outside were suddenly screaming. The governor is accustomed to this and, in fact, it gives him fodder for his nearly 20-minute-long speech:
Christie was just getting started:
The crowd erupts. Runyan is smiling. And the tide is turning. Last week's Richard Stockton College/Zogby poll of likely voters in the district showed Runyan leading Adler 40 percent to 37 percent. While technically within the margin of error, Runyan gained 10 additional percentage points over the past month. DeStefano, the "Tea Party" candidate is garnering less than 5 percent, indicating either indifference or a negative effect on Adler.
To be sure, the Democratic congressman has distanced himself from the mess and insists he knows nothing about it. When I mentioned this to Chris Smith, who represents the neighboring 4th Congressional District, he scoffed. "C'mon. All of his staff were part of it. They were in a room. You know, the CIA loves to have plausible deniability when everybody in the CIA knows they knew. Where are the firings of all the people if [Adler] didn't know about it? That's dirty pool. And hopefully the people in the 3rd District have no tolerance for dirty pool."