State Sen. Sam Thompson (D-Old Bridge) surprised just about everyone in New Jersey last month when he announced that, after 25 years as a Republican legislator, he was switching to the Democratic Party. But he’s still sounding like more of a Republican on one of the modern era’s most important political questions: Biden or Trump?
Asked today whether he’d support President Joe Biden for a second term, Thompson said “not necessarily.” Instead, he saved his praise for former President Donald Trump, whom he said had a more successful presidency.
“If you compare the performances of the two, Trump wins,” Thompson said. “That is, when he was president, what he got done versus what Biden is doing. I’m interested in what’s best for America, as opposed to what’s best for a party.”
The 87-year-old Thompson also noted that many of his fellow Democrats are skeptical about the 80-year-old Biden running for re-election, an assertion backed up by polling.
“Over 50% of Democrats don’t want him,” he said. “Whether I support him or not doesn’t differentiate me from Democrats, does it?”
Thompson has been clear since the beginning that his party switch was more about personal frustration with Republican leaders, many of whom were lining up behind a younger primary challenger for his Senate seat, than any ideological differences. On the day he joined the Democratic caucus, he said he’d vote from a “moderate conservative position,” just as he had when he was a Republican.
Thompson’s refusal to back Biden is another sign that he remains more ideologically aligned with his old caucus than with his new one. After all, Thompson was a Trump delegate in both 2016 and 2020, and unlike some of his fellow Republican legislators never publicly wavered from the party’s pro-Trump stance.
But in the halls of the statehouse, Thompson has acted largely like a standard legislative Democrat since his party switch. He sits with the Democrats on committees, and on the one contentious piece of legislation that’s come before the Senate so far, a bill concerning solar energy, he sided with Democrats against the vast majority of the Republican caucus.
It’s all something of a moot point anyways, since Thompson decided earlier this week that he wouldn’t run for re-election in his prohibitively Republican district. Still, Thompson will remain a member of the legislature for the next nine months, meaning that there will be plenty more opportunities for him to make clear just how much he does – or doesn’t – fit in with his new party.