While President Bush is soaring as leader of the civilized world, he understandably has overlooked his parochial duties as leader of the GOP. While he directs the War on Terror, the clock ticks toward November 6 when voters will choose new governors in Virginia and New Jersey and New York’s next mayor. President Bush should channel some of his abundant political capital to worthy Republican candidates.
In Virginia, Republican Mark Earley, formerly state attorney general, is battling Democratic investor Mark Warner. An October 19 Mason-Dixon poll showed Warner and Earley in a statistical tie, 45 percent to 42. A couple of Bush visits could push Earley to victory in a conservative state that Bush won last fall. Stumping in Virginia also would be convenient for Bush given the Old Dominion’s proximity to the White House.
About a 40-minute flight from Washington, Jersey City’s Republican ex-mayor, Bret Schundler, is opposing suburban Woodbridge’s Democratic mayor, Jim McGreevey. According to an October 17 Quinnipiac University survey, McGreevey leads Schundler 49 percent to 39 percent among likely New Jersey voters. Schundler gradually has narrowed McGreevey’s margin. As Maurice Carroll, director of Quinnipiac’s Polling Institute, observed, “if the Democrat’s cautious campaign fails to motivate supporters, Schundler’s committed following could make a difference.”
Schundler’s secret weapon could be his popularity among minority voters such as those who composed his inner-city mayoral political base. In 1997, Schundler won a reelectoral landslide with 45 percent of Jersey City’s black Ward F and 64 percent of Hispanic Ward E. Schundler continues to preach his conservative tax cut and school reform gospel to audiences of color. At the New Jersey Black Chamber of Commerce’s October 17 candidate’s forum — which McGreevey skipped — one participant asked Schundler why blacks should back him. “First of all, because I am here asking for your vote,” Schundler answered to applause.
President Bush should help Schundler demonstrate that Republicans can transform the minority vote into the margin of victory. While Bush lost New Jersey in 2000, he now enjoys 90 percent job approval there. Also, his leadership of the War on Terror should appeal to the thousands of New Jerseyans who directly were affected by the attack on the World Trade Center, just across the Hudson River from the Garden State.
“In New Jersey, a big chunk of the electorate makes their minds up in the last week of the campaign,” said Schundler’s campaign spokesman Bill Guhl. “So, with the difference right now being 10 points with two weeks to go, this race is wide open.” A presidential campaign swing, Guhl added, “would send a clear signal to the voters that Bush has confidence in Bret Schundler, and that Bret is somebody he would like to work closely with as governor.”
Election Day also will determine Rudy Giuliani’s successor at New York’s City Hall. The Democrats have nominated Public Advocate Mark Green, a perennial candidate and one-time aide to Ralph Nader. The Republicans have tapped media mogul Michael Bloomberg in his first political bid. Free-marketeers see this as a choice between cyanide and strychnine. At least the former kills instantly.
Green is a stalwart liberal who wouldn’t recognize a private company if his limousine crashed into it. To his credit, Green seems to be an honest socialist who truly believes that big government works wonders. He also may reappoint Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner who first spearheaded Giuliani’s spectacularly successful anti-crime initiative. Green led Bloomberg 51 percent to 35, Quinnipiac reported October 24.
Bloomberg, alas, is a liberal Democrat dressed as a Republican for Halloween. He hopes that spending some $40 million of his own fortune will help voters forget that he opportunistically joined the GOP just a year ago. Also, of the $337,000 in political contributions Bloomberg made between 1990 and 2000, he donated 91.5 percent to Democrats such as U.S. senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. Michael Bloomberg is New Jersey’s Jon Corzine with a skyline.
President Bush could enhance Bloomberg’ stature, especially in Queens and Staten Island, where New York’s most conservative voters live. But his embrace should come at a price: Bloomberg should earn Bush’s assistance by promoting a pro-market agenda of deep tax reductions, government downsizing and a serious commitment to school choice. In other words, he should behave like a Republican. Unlike Earley and Schundler, Bloomberg must prove that President Bush’s help is something he deserves.