Republican congressional candidate Rosemary Becchi wrote a $1,000 personal check to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this year.
Becchi’s donation might give Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) some ammo during a slow summer, but it might not do much to move the needle.
“Rosemary has known Senator McConnell going back to when she worked in the Senate,” Becchi campaign consultant Brian Murray said. “She made the contribution because she supports Senator McConnell.”
Becchi previously served as a staffer to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.
Democrats see the link as something of an opportunity in Becchi’s endorsement of six more years of McConnell, and they have reason to do so. Like most congressional leaders, McConnell is unpopular.
An Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday found only 30% of voters regarded the senator favorably. More than half, 53% said they viewed him unfavorably.
Predictably, the results were split largely along party lines.
“Tom ran a great campaign last year and is doing a great job as our congressman,” Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer said. “He was helped along by a distaste for Donald Trump and his minions, and anything that ties his challenger to Mitch McConnell and those bumbling fools in Washington is good for Tom.”
Though McConnell’s popularity leaves something to be desired, attacks leveled at Becchi over the $1,000 donation won’t be a kill shot, said Ben Dworkin, director of Rowan University’s Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship.
“These kinds of attacks based on who you gave money to, really, I don’t think have much impact in the end. When a voter goes into the voting booth, they’re not thinking about whether this person supported Mitch McConnell with a $1,000 check a year ago,” Dworkin said. “They’re going to make the decision on whether they like Republicans or like Democrats.”
Despite that, linking politicians to others is something of a tried-and-true tradition.
Malinowski faced similar attacks from Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) during his bid last year.
The now-congressman was the only Democratic House challenger in the state that year who did not say he would not vote House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi into position of authority.
Even now, Malinowski is facing attacks over his support of the California congresswoman.
The campaign of State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), the front-runner for the Republican nod in the seventh congressional district, send out a fundraising email hammering on Malinowski’s support Pelosi Tuesday.
“It’s time for a congressman who brings New Jersey Values to Washington instead of forcing Washington Values on New Jersey,” the Kean campaign email said. “Will you make a donation to Tom Kean today so that he can defeat Malinowski, bring his solutions-based approach to Washington, and start working on behalf of the Seventh District?”
Kean’s campaign re-upped on the attack — and the fundraising call — Wednesday morning.
Becchi, a longtime Washington lobbyist who lives in Short Hills, also sent a $500 check to one of the top House Republicans, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming).
As Becchi makes the case to Republican insiders that Kean has become a career politicians, her self-proclaimed longtime friendships with Washington insiders like McConnell could dilute her argument.
Speaking broadly, Dworkin said attacks like those were worthwhile despite the apparent lack of sticking power.
“It’s always worth it. What else are you going to be talking about in August of 2019?” Dworkin said. “If you can paint your opponent as an extremist in some way or tie that person to an unpopular politician, sure, that would be something that any campaign would be silly not to do, but these are all little cuts. This is not the meta-theme of the 2020 race.”