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Friday, September 15, 2006


Sen-NJ: Tom Kean flies under the radar

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, September 15, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
NPR had an interesting piece on Tom Kean, Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey, this morning. The piece made the point that Kean is running as a stealth Republican - focusing exclusively on local issues and distancing himself from the President and the party. On the campaign trail, he studiously avoids the issue of Iraq, but when pressed on it, unhesitatingly says that the Administration made huge mistakes and that the Defense Department needs new leadership (veiled reference to firing Rumsfeld). His campaign literature omits any mention of his party and when Cheney dropped by to raise money for him, he got "stuck in traffic" rather than be caught in a photo op with the veep.

What's also interesting is the attitude towards the race from the activists on both sides. Dailykos hasn't had much front-page mention of Kean, though there has been some limited discussion at myDD. The worst that anyone's said about Kean there is that he benefits from some identity confusion from people who think he is his father Tom Kean Sr., a former Governor and still well-respected. The myDD Senate forecast probably should be updated, it's presently under the "lean Democratic" category when it really should be under Toss-ups. I don't think Menendez's mere $5M money advantage and the general blueness of NJ are enough to bank a win on, and as myDD admits Kean has way better name ID than Menendez does (something the NPR piece also mentions).

At RedState, Kean has got some front-page love from Pejman (who is rather moderate himself). Still, Kean hasn't attracted much attention. It's likely that Kean's liberal views wouldn't go over well if they got a fuller airing, so in that sense the relative silence about him works in his favor; Kean resembles Lincoln Chaffee in his RiNOism but he doesn't get any of the bile. Of course there wasn't an annointed conservative challenger to Kean as there was to Chaffee either so the GOP grassroots have really very little choice.

It's worth pointing out that Menendez was an appointed Senator, and that Democratic Party in NJ is generally considered corrupt. In that sense Kean might well be a good kick in the pants for the NJ Dems to get their act together, and probably better represent the will of the voters in NJ than Menendez. Given NJ's overwhelming blueness it's a safe bet that as Senator he'd be forced to be bipartisan - and given his pretty liberal positions, that isn't going to be too much of a setback.

On the whole, I think this is a race that if the GOP does win, does them no favors, and doesn't hurt the Democrats either. Control of the Senate is still possible for the Dems even without Menendez, and Kean might be a good ally. After all, we DO need "good guy" Republicans like the McCain-Warner-Hagel trio who led the charge against the President's attempt to undermine the Geneva Conventions yesterday, to confer genuine legitimacy to the Democrats when doing the right thing.

Overall, Kean flies under the radar on the national scene and is working hard where it matters - in the field, on the ground. I think that a Kean victory is not only likely, but also probably going to garner as much attention as his race has. Namely, very little.

UPDATE: Note that Menendez is now under federal investigation. The timing is of course suspect, but calling the US attorney a crook is pretty desperate.


i remember his father as a child. my understanding is that kean is a little less moderate than his father. i tend to support his hard-line stand on illegal immigration.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.