MT LAUREL – Unlike every other Republican congressional candidate in the state, Rep. Tom MacArthur said he would like it if President Donald Trump came to campaign for him, even if he thought the prospect was less than likely.
“If he came, I certainly would appear with him, yes,” MacArthur said following an unrelated press conference about tariffs on Tuesday. “I’d love to have him in New Jersey, but I don’t see that happening right now. I think he’s all over the country, and he’s been here.”
Other Republican candidates in the state – including ones that have ties to Trump, like Assemblyman Jay Webber, for whom Trump is holding a fundraiser Thursday, and Bob Hugin, who was New Jersey finance chair for Trump’s 2016 campaign – have distanced themselves from the president in an attempt to catch moderates who might view the president unfavorably.
Some Democrats, namely Webber opponent Mikie Sherrill, have likewise moderated their views of the president in an attempt to court moderates.
But MacArthur, who has been the staunchest Trump ally among New Jersey’s congressional delegation, made no such attempts at moderation.
A recent Stockton University poll has Trump with an upside-down 44%-55% approval rating in New Jersey.
It’s something of a truism that elections are decided by turnout, and the election in New Jersey’s third congressional district is no exception.
The district boasts a stark partisan split between its two counties. Burlington County is more favorable to Democrats, and MacArthur challenger Andy Kim will need a surge there to win. But Ocean County is one of New Jersey’s tried and true Republican strongholds.
A visit from the president – say, to a campaign rally in a place like Tom’s River – could serve to energize Republican voters in Ocean County and offset the enthusiasm gap between Republicans there and Democrats elsewhere in the district.
It could be especially effective given the proximity of the election, which is now just two weeks away.
But, an appearance from Trump could have the same effect in Burlington County, only it would likely push up turnout among Democratic and left-leaning voters.
MacArthur has previously claimed, and did so again Tuesday, that Kim is running to oppose Trump.
Kim has largely toed around the president on the campaign trail, but he has previously attacked some of Trump’s policies, including border separations and the tax plan Republicans passed last year.
“This is one of the issues with my opponent. He’s running to resist Trump,” MacArthur said. “He’s trying to sound like he’s not, but his whole history, it’s crystal clear that his motivation for running, and it comes out at times. The other day we were in a joint appearance, and he talked about the need to stop this administration. That’s what it is for him. I think it’s bad for America.”