My coaching experience often influences my strategic political thinking. Going into what promises to be a close game there is a premium on not making mistakes and in the process beating yourself. As things currently stand going into the 2018 Senatorial elections the Democrats need a net pickup of two seats to take back the chamber. Unlike many other Democrats I’m skeptical. That being said I have not given up and see the need to “play a near perfect game”. It is with that thought in mind that I make today’s plea.
Late last week as the political news was dominated by what ended up being a government shutdown the story that federal prosecutors have decided to retry New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez received little attention. When I heard it I sat straight up in my chair. This is potentially huge!
A few months back an earlier Menendez trial resulted in a hung jury. I will not make any comments as to guilt or innocence or rather the decision to retry is legitimate or political for that matter. None of those things matter in this discussion. Fair or not, Menendez running for reelection while a defendant in a criminal felony trial is all that matters.
The Democrats have to defend 26 seats this November while the Republicans only have to defend 8. The Republicans can lose a net of one seat and still control the upper chamber by virtue of the Vice President being the tie breaking vote. In short, mathematically they have the easier path. Some seats are solidly either red or blue. In reality I only see three possible pickup opportunities for the Democrats. They have to take two out of those three assuming they can defend all 26 of the seats they currently hold. That will be far from an easy task.
Normally New Jersey is a safe Democratic seat. Currently the Governor of New Jersey is Democrat Phil Murphy who is certain to appoint another Democrat if a sitting New Jersey Senator were to leave office other than by defeat at the ballot box. The problem is a “wounded” Menendez is vulnerable to an upset loss.
I’m not intimately familiar with New Jersey politics, but the numbers in the Garden State tell me that the Democrats should have a deep bench of candidates to run if Menendez steps aside. (Their problem is more likely to be a crowded primary field.)
There are Democrats running for reelection in red (or certainly deep purple) states like Jon Tester in Montana, Clair McCaskill in Missouri, Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota to worry about. States like New York, California and New Jersey should be safe states as long as our candidate isn’t “wounded”.
Senator Menendez you have been a loyal Democrat and a reliable progressive vote in the Senate for years. In the interest of the Party and the causes you love I ask you to make the personal sacrifice, no matter how unfair it may seem or in fact be, and announce your retirement to let another electable Democrat take your place on the ballot. The Party cannot afford to deploy assets in New Jersey that are needed elsewhere or in the worst case scenario lose a seat that should be a lock.
Life isn’t always fair and I ask you to place cause over person. There is too much at stake here and no margin for error.
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