John McCann on Monday launched a TV ad that seeks to rekindle memories of the election-season feud between rival candidate Steve Lonegan and President Donald Trump.
The McCann ad, which is already rolling on networks in the fifth congressional district, airs negative statements Trump made about Lonegan in 2016, when Lonegan, then the state chair for the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, was a staunch opponent of Trump’s.
“I’ve known Lonegan for 25 years,” Trump said in 2016 comments adapted to the advertisement. “He’s always lost. He’s a loser. Check his record – loss, loss, loss.”
Lonegan campaign manager Mike Proto responded in a manner that has become typical for both candidates running for the Republican nomination in the fifth district.
“McCann’s been sued for malpractice, had six-figure tax liens from the IRS and voted for higher property taxes four times as a member of local government,” Proto said. “McCann’s flip-flopped on abortion and gun control — and is on record as opposing the Trump tax cuts. He’s not a conservative and he can’t win.”
The line of attack isn’t a new one for McCann, who has previously aired ads featuring similar statements from the president. The recommitment to this line of attack could be a crystallization of the candidate’s strategy moving into the final two weeks of the primary.
McCann has secured endorsements and support from several pro-Trump groups and figures, including former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, Veterans for Trump and Students for Trump.
That backing could be a boon in the fifth district, which narrowly elected Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) in 2016 despite voting for Trump in the presidential race that same year.
But, Lonegan has support from his share of Trump-aligned figures as well. Since 2016, Lonegan has largely flipped on his Trump detractions, at times praising the president and his policy moves. Former Trump campaign managers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie appeared at a book signing organized by the Lonegan campaign.
Editor’s note: This article was updated with comment from Mike Proto at 4:41 p.m.