Pushed by national trends, two New Jersey congressional districts have moved a rating category each in Democrats’ favor according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
New Jersey’s third congressional district, where incumbent Rep. Tom MacArthur will face former Obama national security staffer Andy Kim in November, has moved from a likely Republican victory to leaning Republican.
The state’s fifth district, where freshman Rep. Josh Gottheimer will defend his seat against perennial candidate Steve Lonegan or attorney John McCann, went from leaning towards Democrats to a likely Democratic victory.
David Wasserman, the Cook Political Report’s House editor, said the changes, which reflect new information gleaned from polling data, reflect national trends that show a map favoring Democrat’s in Congress’s lower chamber.
President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings are partly to blame, Wasserman said, adding that the opposition being favored was fairly typical of during a midterm election.
In the third district, MacArthur may be harmed by his support of unpopular legislation, like last year’s failed healthcare overhaul, but his ability to self-fund should prove valuable in a district with multiple media markets.
“Kim has raised $1 million, but that may only go so far in a district that straddles the New York and Philadelphia media markets,” Wasserman said. “MacArthur has a virtually unlimited personal checkbook.”
Demographics in the district also result in a split, Wasserman said. Kim, he said, will likely carry Burlington County, but turning over Ocean County voters who broke for Trump in 2016 will likely prove challenging.
“Private Democratic polling shows MacArthur vulnerable, but this is still Democrats’ fourth-best takeover target in the state,” Wasserman said.
In the fifth, Gottheimer benefits from having less-than stellar challengers. Lonegan, who last won an election when he ran for mayor of Bogota in 1995, might be too conservative for the moderate fifth congressional district, Wasserman says.
In 2016, former Rep. Scott Garrett loss of the seat in 2016 is often ascribed to anti-gay comments the 7-term congressman made in a closed-door meeting of the National Republican Congressional Commission.
Similar missteps could cost McCann or Lonegan the race.