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Former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman

Grossman digging in and doubling down

Reconciliation with national party unlikely

By Nikita Biryukov, July 10 2018 5:46 pm

SOMERS POINT – Seth Grossman isn’t lamenting his abandonment by the national arm of the Republican party. In fact, he said there hadn’t been much support there in the first place.

“The national committee never really backed in,” Grossman said when asked if he was concerned about losing the backing of the national party and their coffers. “They gave me a book and a cellphone battery and a case with Kevin McCarthy’s name engraved on it, and that was the only help I’ve gotten from them in the past five weeks. So, they were a non-factor from the beginning.”

The national party, which endorsed Grossman after he won the nomination to run against State Sen. Jeff Van Drew for retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s seat, rescinded their endorsement of the former Atlantic County Freeholder on Monday, after Media Matters reported that Grossman had shared posts on a white supremacist website in in 2014.

Grossman maintained that he shared those posts without fully reading them because they had been shared by former Rep. Allen West.

But, the State party is keeping its distance along with national Republicans. Grossman said he’s reached out to Doug Steinhardt, New Jersey’s Republican state chairman, since yesterday’s events but hasn’t heard back.

Steinhardt contested that, telling the Globe in a text message that he had not received calls from Grossman on his cell, at his law office or at the New Jersey GOP office.

Still, Steinhardt has yet to drop Grossman. While he reiterated the state party’s previous condemnation of Grossman’s remarks, he again stopped short of disavowing Grossman.

Those comments come as some of the districts Republican County chairs are getting cold feet over Grossman, worried that he might sink the campaigns of candidates further down the ballot.

While Grossman said Atlantic County Chairman Keith Davis will continue to back him, it was less clear how others would react. Grossman said he spoke with Cape May County chairman Marcus Caravan on Tuesday, but it wasn’t clear whether or not the party would continue to back him. The county will put out a statement on the matter later today, Grossman said.

Grossman seemed confident that Salem County would continue to back him, and he said he had not spoken with chairs from Gloucester and Cumberland counties. He also said that a local fight in Ocean County could keep Ocean County Chairman George Gilmore from being overly active in Grossman’s race, one way or another.

Even so, Grossman said that his attempts to bring the national party back into his fold had so far been unsuccessful.

“I think I’ve done everything I could. If I call seven to 10 times and don’t get answered, and I know they say guys are slow to figure things out, but I think even I can take a hint,” Grossman said.

After the National Republican Campaign Committee stopped backing Grossman, he called for Steve Stiver to resign, claiming that the NRCC chair wasn’t doing enough to help back pro-Trump candidates. Van Drew’s campaign blasted out Grossman’s statement on Tuesday, seeking to capitalize on the infighting.

That wheels of that reconciliation might be greased if Grossman were to disavow his previous comments on diversity, but the candidate likely won’t give any such concession.

In fact, he’s doubling down – or up, depending on the maneuver’s success – on what might be called a “Trump stratagem.”

Instead of apologizing, Grossman’s pushing through, continuing to use attacks over his apparent gaffes to fundraise from small donors that would likely have no idea who Grossman is were it not for the local, regional and national coverage Grossman’s earned since his statements on diversity were first Reported in early June.

For one, Grossman said that the first $50,000 his campaign raised came from donations that averaged a little more than $100 in value, and the final $9,000 of those funds came in only seven hours, both through online donations and through checks stuffed into the mailbox at the candidate’s law office.

He’s continuing to fundraise in that manner, and while he doesn’t expect to come close to the fundraising numbers put up by Van Drew,

The candidate has also tapped Thomas Dees as his campaign manager. Dees was youth director for now-Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis in 2016, when Lewis came under fire for remarks about slavery made on his radio show that the congressman claimed were taken out of context.

That type of operative will likely be crucial to Grossman’s success, said Matt Hale, a professor of political science at Seton Hall University. For one, there’s a lot that someone like Dees can do to animate the base of Trump voters in the second district.

“If there are Trump Republicans in New Jersey, they’re down in the second and the third districts,” Hale said. “There’re probably not enough, at least in the second, especially given what Grossman had to say, but I don’t know that Grossman has any other options other than to just try and hope that there’s a lot more Trump supporters and a lot more far-right people within the district than people think there is.”

Dees didn’t take as critical a view of Grossman’s comments as Hale did. In fact, the operative said that Democratic groups made a mistake by firing that particular gun this early into the race.

The name id given by the coverage should prove valuable he said, and he said the shots fired by Media Matters on Monday were the last Democratic groups had.

From here, they just had to dig in and win, Dees said.

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