NJ-Sen: Cranking Up The Rightist Smear Machine

Easily the greatest New Jersey-by-way-of-Texas blogger on the scene, Thurman Hart has an interesting post up at The American Prospect's Midterm Madness blog about The Washington Times wading into the Senate race between Sen. Bob Menendez and Tom Kean Jr here in New Jersey. As Thurman notes, the Times claims that Kean Jr "has been helped by an unlikely Republican ally" in the New Jersey media, "which has been running stinging editorials and news stories" against Sen. Menendez. That would be interesting, if it were true.

Yet a review of the top-circulating Jersey paper, the Star-Ledger, reveals no negative news articles about Mr. Menendez at all. Furthermore, the junior senator has not even been the topic of an editorial in the last two weeks. The same goes for the New York Times. In fact, quite the contrary; both newspapers have run a number of articles that are unfavorable to Kean, and those articles and editorials critical of Menendez cited by the Washington Times actually date back to before he was appointed senator.

The Times further reports that Kean, Jr. has enjoyed a "slight edge" in "most early polls." Yet the truth is that the polls have been fairly evenly split -- with the lead switching back and forth.

To take his critique of the Moonie Times story one step further, it's notable that the two polls they cite don't really support their pro-Kean Jr claims either. The first set of numbers they offer up is from a Quinnipiac University poll that gave Sen. Menendez a lead of 40% to 36%, with a 2.9% margin of error. Remind me again, Times, how this equates to "a virtual tie," as you claim? The other poll is from Strategic Vision, which has Kean Jr leading by 32% to 30%, and a 3% MOE.  This, of course, could pretty accurately be called "a virtual tie," but it seems more or less to be an outlier. The most recent polls -- Rasmussen, which gives Kean Jr the lead, and Zogby Interactive, which Menendez leads -- are also quite tight, but ought to be taken with a grain of salt as the former is an automated telephone poll and the latter is an internet poll of people who've expressly said they'd like to be polled. Most other polls, it should be noted, have been much kinder to Menendez.

My point here, as I believe was Thurman's, is not to spin the polls one way or the other. Rather, it's to point out that this is a classic Moonie Times smear disguised as news. Not really shocking, but still worth calling attention to. The rightist smear machine is already in full gear, working to shape conventional wisdom in every state of the union, no matter the reality on the ground. The anti-Menendez "stinging editorials and news stories" are simply a figment of the rightist imaginations of Tom Kean Jr and his smear artist allies at the Times.

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NJ-Sen: Crisis For Kean Jr

Here in New Jersey, just in case you'd been wondering, machine politics are not exclusively the domain of one party. One of the most powerful political bosses in the state, for example, is Guy Talarico, chair of the Bergen County Republican Organization. Last Friday, Talarico told 2006 Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr that he'd better endorse the party establishment's slate of candidates or lose their endorsement.

If we do not receive written confirmation from you within three (3) business days, we will assume that you do not intend to bracket or affiliate with the BCRO and we will deem the Senate line on the BCRO endorsed slate vacant.

As Wally Edge points out at PoliticsNJ, "no Republican candidate has ever won a statewide election in New Jersey without carrying Bergen County. Not one. Not ever." To put it mildly, this is not something that Kean Jr can just ignore.

The Bergen GOP is putting Kean Jr into a position where he is literally forced to cave in to a machine boss for ballot access. This completely undercuts Republican efforts to paint Senator Menenedez as the machine candidate, since it's Kean Jr who has to ask how high when Boss Talarico tells him to jump.

Today's the deadline for a response, according to Talarico's ultimatum, but there's still no word from Kean Jr's camp. I suppose this situation could theoretically be just so much kabuki, but with the ongoing civil war within the Bergen GOP, I'd tend to doubt it. No matter how this thing plays out, it looks incredibly bad for Jersey's Republicans and Kean Jr in particular.

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Senator Menendez puts New Jersey first

The freshman of the freshman, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey taught us today that some politicians still care about the people. Menendez has been front and center in criticizing the President's authorization to hand over control of American ports to the United Arab Emirates, a country with known ties to terrorist organizations and a known transfer point for nuclear material heading for Iran and North Korea.

<We wouldn't turn over our customs service or our border patrol to a foreign government," New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said during a news conference. "We shouldn't turn over the ports of the United States, either."</p>

Menendez said he and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of port operations to foreign governments.>

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