Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute: "We saw an exceptionally low Republican turnout this year." (NJ Spotlight, November 6, 2015)
"Exceptionally low Republican turnout" shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who watched the messaging in this year's legislative elections. Many of our challengers did not carry a consistently Republican message on issues like abortion, funding Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage, and the Second Amendment. This was either because they did not support the "Republican" position on these issues or because they chose not to address one or more of these issues.
N.B. The "Republican" position on these issues is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of official Republican Party policy as defined in the democratically adopted Platform of the Republican National Committee, ratified in 2012. That document can be accessed here:
So despite receiving extra funding from the state party, Republican challengers like John Traier failed to excite even Republican voters. Traier failed to carry the swing town of Clifton, falling 800 votes behind the top Democrat, where the GOP candidate for County Clerk had won the town by 500 votes, the year before.
According to the data we've seen, the state's top three issues are property taxes, jobs, and education. But despite the efforts of Senator Mike Doherty and the writings of Paul Mulshine, the NJGOP had no clear, joined-up program to address issues like property taxes and education funding -- with the result many of our candidates intentionally or by happenstance veered away from these concerns and onto secondary ones like "women's issues." This proved disastrous for two Republican incumbents in District 11.
Republican candidates would have been far better off to have followed Senator Doherty's advice this year. Doherty advised making the inequitable school funding system, imposed by the unelected State Supreme Court, the issue. Not only does the Court make a lie of the purpose for which the income tax was enacted, but it forces economically disadvantaged families living outside the so-called "Abbott Districts" to subsidize the property taxes of the rich corporations and wealthy professionals within those districts -- while it cheats rural and suburban children out of funding to cover the cost of even a third world education.
The brilliance of Senator Doherty's plan lay in who it challenged as much as what it challenged. Doherty went after an unelected Court in Trenton and corrupt school district administrations in areas that Republicans don't win anyway. In contrast, the message laid out early in the year by Governor Chris Christie went after powerful networks within every Republican district in the state -- police, firefighters, teachers, etc.
By targeting these groups and their supporters, the Governor's messaging ensured that every Republican legislator and every challenger had determined enemies in every legislative district, every municipality, and every election district in the state. This messaging practically aborted the candidacy of the challenger in District 2.
Columnist Paul Mulshine warned about the effects Governor's Christie's messaging would have on the electorate, but he was tragically ignored. In fact, Mulshine has been so right about so much over the years, that the NJGOP would do well to simply hire him away from the Star-Ledger and make him the party's top thinker. A few years ago Mulshine's messaging was adopted and used to great effect -- so a demonstration project exists in which Republicans beat historically well-funded Democrats by just by following Paul Mulshine's messaging prescriptions (more on this later). And Senator Mike Doherty's education funding plan is based on Mulshine's writings as well.
While there still are Republican legislators, Senator Mike Doherty's plan and writer Paul Mulshine's messaging need to be considered and adopted whole or in part by GOP legislative leaders. Because we could be in for worse in 2017.