Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is expected to endorse incumbent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week, but candidates in New Jersey might do well to keep the former secretary of state on that side of the Hudson River.
While there is some enthusiasm for Clinton among the state’s Democratic establishment, operatives and outside experts worry about the effects the baggage-laden former U.S. senator could have on the races, especially for candidates facing competitive primary challenges from the left.
“I don’t know that it’s to their benefit to necessarily have Hillary go for them,” said a Democratic source with knowledge of statewide campaigns. “I don’t think it’s a deal breaker or a deal maker. I just think it’s sort of there. if she comes in for them, it’s great, but it’s not like that’s what will take over the top, because there are a lot of very left-leaning democrats that don’t agree with the party’s mainstream.”
That isn’t to say that some Democrats wouldn’t welcome an endorsement. Clinton did win 55% of the state’s votes in the 2016 general election, and she took a slightly wider 63% in the primaries that year.
Democratic State Chairman John Currie indicated that the state’s candidates might be receptive of support of support from Clinton, adding that the state worked hard on Clinton’s behalf in 2016.
“I think Secretary Clinton, I don’t want to speak for her, but I would think she’d be excited about all twelve of our candidates,” Currie said. “We’re challenging five Republican seats, and I know she’s very close with (U.S. Sen. Bob) Menendez running for re-election for senate.”
Menendez campaign chairman Michael Soliman said the senator would embrace a Clinton visit.
“Sen. Menendez is a proud Democrat and would welcome Secretary Clinton at any time,” Soliman said.
Ross Baker, a distinguished professor of political science at Rutgers University, said he doubted Clinton would campaign for a New Jersey House candidate unless she had some sort of personal connection with the one running.
Bake even said Menendez, who he thought was the likeliest to receive Clinton’s support, might do well to have Clinton steer clear of New Jersey.
“If she volunteered, I think they’d tell her to stay out,” Baker said. “And I just think the amount of baggage that comes with her is so enormous that any prudent campaign manager would say to a candidate ‘just do this on your own’ or ‘get Joe Biden or somebody who’s not quite so polarizing.’”
Baker had similar concerns about President Donald Trump stumping in the state.
While his approval ratings have climbed slightly on a national level over the past few months, the last poll to measure his New Jersey approval rating, a March 13 Quinnipiac University poll, had Trump deep underwater in the state with an upside-down approval of 32%-63%.
Baker guessed MacArthur, who has been the member of the New Jersey delegation that Trump can count on, would be the likeliest to receive support form the president, but he questions whether MacArthur would take that support.
“I think that he certainly has to be aware of the fact that Andy Kim is a credible challenger. He’s been able to raise some money, and I think that MacArthur would probably say to Trump ‘thanks Mr. President, but I can handle this one on my own,’” Baker said. “I don’t see him coming into any other Republican.”
If that’s the case, the Republican State Committee hasn’t been made aware of it.
“The NJGOP would be honored to have President Trump’s support for any of our candidates,” Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt said.
An appearance from the president could serve to boost Republican campaigns that have had trouble achieving a high level of visibility to this point in the campaign.
To illustrate the point, Baker pointed to the campaigns run by Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s Republican challengers in the fifth congressional district.
“We’d like to see the president campaign in New Jersey in the appropriate districts,” said fifth district House candidate John McCann. “I don’t know statewide how he pulls out. I don’t know if Hugin is going to want that, but we’ll see.”
The Hugin campaign did not return a request for comment made at 12:20 p.m.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:33 with comment from Michael Soliman.