WASHINGTON — Can New Jersey’s congressional delegation have no Republicans after November’s election?
New Jersey voters overwhelmingly preferred to have a Democrat rather than a Republican representing them in the U.S. House, and the unpopularity of President Donald Trump and the GOP tax plan were major reasons, according to a poll released Monday.
The Democrats held a 54 percent to 35 percent edge in the Monmouth University poll‘s generic ballot holds up, threatening five Republican-held seats.
“This is pretty astounding,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “If these results hold, we could be down to just one or two – or maybe even zero – Republican members in the state congressional delegation after November.”
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Martin said he wasn’t concerned.
“As we learned in 2016, these generic polls are a snapshot in time that widely fluctuate leading up to the election,” Martin said. “What remains consistent is Democrats running untested and flawed candidates against proven Republican leaders across New Jersey.”
Fueling the negative numbers for Republicans was New Jerseyans’ disapproval of Trump’s performance in office. More than 6 in 10 voters, 61 percent, disapproved of the job he was doing as president, compared with 35 percent who viewed his performance positively.
And 45 percent disapproved of the Republican tax bill, which disproportionately affected New Jersey and other high-tax states by capping the federal deduction for state and local taxes. Just 36 percent approved of the new law.
Only one New Jersey lawmaker, Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., supported the Republican tax bill. The other four Republicans and all nine Democratic senators and representatives voted no.
The American Action Network, a nonprofit with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has spent more than $30 million on ads supporting the tax bill, including a new $1 million campaign in 30 districts, including MacArthur’s.
That hasn’t convinced Garden State residents that the legislation was a good deal for them.
“Most New Jerseyans feel like they’ve ended up with the short end of the stick from these tax reforms,” Murray said. “That’s what makes this plan a particularly tough sell for Republican House candidates here.”
Almost half of N.J. registered voters, 48 percent, said they expected to pay more in federal taxes even as New Jersey already sends billions of dollars more to Washington than it receives in services. Just 20 percent said they expected a tax cut.
The political climate has not been hospitable to Republicans, who see the governorship and state legislature controlled by Democrats.
Two long-time GOP incumbents, Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., and Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th Dist., have announced their retirements, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted their districts and the three remaining House Republicans.
The Cook Political Report, a Washington-based publication that tracks congressional races, said Democrats are favored to win LoBiondo’s district, have a 50-50 chance to win Frelinghuysen’s district and the 7th District represented by Rep. Leonard Lance, and are slight underdogs against Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist. Only Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., is considered safe.
“Those are seats that Republicans would argue have never been on the battlefield in the past,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., the DCCC chairman. “New Jersey is going to be an important part, a critical part, of us wining back the House.”
Contributing to his optimism, Lujan said, was the strong turnout among Democrats in last fall’s gubernatorial election won by Phil Murphy.
The Monmouth poll’s generic ballot asked voters if they would support or lean toward the Democratic or Republican candidate for the House if the election was held today.
The Democrats held a 21-point edge in the seven districts they now hold, compared with 26 percent in the 2014 midterm elections.
But the Republican advantage in their five districts was only 46 percent to 44 percent, within the margin of error, compared with 23 points four years ago.
Even in those districts, Trump was viewed negatively, 53 percent to 43 percent. So was the tax legislation by 46 percent to 42 percent, with 47 percent saying they expected their federal tax bill to rise.
Overall, Democrats won the congressional vote in 2014 by just two points, 50 percent to 48 percent.
“Not only are New Jersey Democrats doing better on the generic House ballot statewide, but the shift is coming almost entirely from districts currently held by the GOP,” Murray said. “These results suggest that New Jersey Republicans are facing hurricane-force headwinds right now.”
The poll of 632 registered voters, was conducted April 6-10 with a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points