Last night, New Jersey Democrats voted in that state’s primary, featuring one of the highest-profile member-on-member primaries in the country. Reps. Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman were forced to run against each other as a result of the state’s redistricting. Unusually, it was something of a proxy fight between Bill Clinton, who backed Pascrell and Obama, who backed Rothman. Obama’s candidate was trounced by Clinton’s.
The race, especially with the two high-profile endorsements was supposed to be a nail-biter. From The Hill:
The race between the two Democrats and close allies was expected to go down to the wire, but Pascrell delivered a stinging rebuke to Rothman, who took 30 percent to Pascrell’s 70, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Pascrell.
Obviously, one can’t necessarily extrapolate an outcome onto the politicians making endorsements. In this case, however, both Clinton and, especially Obama, threw a lot of effort behind their endorsements.
Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides. Both sought to present themselves as the truer Democrat — a theme brought to the forefront by the proxy battle that emerged in northern New Jersey between former President Clinton and President Obama.
Clinton endorsed Pascrell, who had been an early supporter of former first lady Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. Obama sent top adviser David Axelrod to New Jersey to campaign for Rothman, who backed Obama in 2008, and the president later called Rothman to the White House to indicate his support for the Bergen County congressman.
So, Rothman had both the services of Axelrod and a White House visit to improve his chances in what was expected to be a very close Democrat primary. All this got him 30% of the vote.
Maybe we can extrapolate from this outcome, after all.