Skip to comments.A personal message from Bret Schundler
Posted on 11/16/2001 1:06:11 PM PST by Tony Soprano
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM BRET SCHUNDLER
We did not lose last Tuesday -- we just have not won yet!
For us, the goal was never just to win an election. It was to implement policies that would solve problems in New Jersey and improve peoples lives. That cause endures -- and thus, so does the fight.
Tomorrow will bring another opportunity to do what we can to make the world a better place. The day after tomorrow will bring another opportunity.
We will win some battles. We will lose some battles. It is the good fight itself that is the good life -- and it is the fact that good fights are won in time that propels human progress, making such victories more than personal.
What We Fought To Accomplish
Our campaign was a campaign of reform. From the beginning, its message was that by reforming the way government works, we can accomplish more while spending less. We can, for instance, improve our public schools and revitalize our cities, even while lowering property and other taxes.
Abortion is an important issue. But while I feel it is almost always wrong, many people do not: so we took a common ground position concerning what we would actually try to accomplish relative to abortion. For instance, we would try to outlaw partial birth abortion, a position with which 85 percent of New Jerseyans agree.
Guns are another important but divisive issue. Our position was straightforward: we said we would not add or subtract from our gun laws, we would just enforce them better.
I have strong feelings on many issues. But in a democracy, it is both inappropriate and impossible for a leader to impose his or her will on the people. A leader must build a positive consensus on an issue, and act only after such a consensus has been achieved.
That is especially important for a leader who wants to effectuate real reform, because to overcome special interest group opposition to reform, the people have to be unified.
Why We Lost
We lost because we were never able to achieve the Republican unity necessary to get our message out.
Right through to Election Day, a handful of Republican insiders assailed me as being extreme, even though my positions on the issues they cited are the same as those of our President, whom these same insiders say they support.
This charge of extremism gave liberal reporters in the media the excuse they wanted to caricature me as being out of the mainstream, and gave credibility to the Democrats efforts to do the same. Combined with the terrorists attack on the World Trade Center, this made it hugely difficult to turn the campaign to a positive discussion of how government can be reformed.
This also made it difficult to raise money. My gubernatorial campaign raised as much as Jim McGreeveys gubernatorial campaign, and the Republican National Committee spent almost as much in New Jersey as the Democratic National Committee. But the Democratic State Committee raised tons more than the Republican State Committee. (Excluding National Committee contributions, the Democrat State Committee raised about $16 million. Our Republican State Committee raised about $2 million.) This lack of effective Republican State Committee fundraising was not Joe Kyrillos fault. It was the result of Party disunity. And in the end, the Democrats superior financial firepower swamped our message on television and radio.
You cannot win a football game with just eight of eleven players on the field. Primaries are fine, but those who are not willing to come together after a primary must not be allowed to be in positions of leadership within our Party.
How Different Issues Cut
Exit polls show that we won the support of voters who considered abortion the most important issue by a 50% to 47% margin. This proves that while most voters in New Jersey are pro-choice, they are willing to support pro-life candidates, such as myself, who respect their views and will not try to impose restrictions where there is not consensus support.
We lost the support of voters who considered guns the most important issue by a 54% to 43% margin. Relatively few voters considered the gun issue a top priority, so this loss did not hurt us much. Moreover, I continue to believe that our no change position is generally acceptable to the voters, and that the only reason we lost on this issue is because of the mischaracterization of my position by the press and by the Democrats. It made some voters actually believe that I want teenagers to be able to bring weapons to high-school football games.
We did get hurt on the education issue. Audiences I had the opportunity to explain my education policies to supported them. But we never had the dollars necessary to explain my education proposals to the broader electorate. Meanwhile, Jim McGreevey spent tens of millions of dollars telling voters that I want to abandon public education. His simpler message and greater spending gave him an advantage on this issue and that cost us dearly.
We trounced Jim McGreevey on the Parkway tolls issue, but it was never a big issue for most voters. And while exit polls said the voters saw me as being more honest and trustworthy, as being the stronger leader, and as being better able to handle a crisis like the terrorist threat we are confronting, these personal and leadership issues were not the most salient to voters. What did matter to them is that they saw Jim McGreevey as better understanding their problems.
This leads us to some very telling poll data. By a margin of 58% to 38%, we won the support of voters for whom taxes were the biggest issue; but we lost the support of voters for whom the economy was the biggest issue.
Most people know that cutting taxes helps the economy, so it is unclear why those who cited the economy as their top concern voted for Jim McGreevey. But I think I have an explanation: I think many voters are using the phrase the economy NOT to refer to New Jerseys macro-economy, but to their familys personal economic situation. Given the reality of New Jerseys high cost of living, high property taxes, high car insurance premiums, and high health care costs and given the fact that Jim McGreevey spent the last five years railing against these problems and blaming them on the Republicans I think people saw McGreevey as being the person who best understood this set of problems and was most committed to making New Jersey affordable for families like theirs!
This interpretation is reinforced by other data from the exit polls. For instance, even though our States economy has enjoyed several years of tremendously low unemployment, a full 31% of voters rated its economy as being not so good or poor. And amongst those voters, Jim McGreevey won by 31 points!
This explains 9 points of our 14-point loss. These economically struggling voters believe that the last eight years of Republican governance may have been good for someone else, but were NOT good for them and these voters blamed our entire Republican ticket!
What I Would Have Done Differently
As Republicans who care about our states future, we should look for three things in a Governor. We should look for a candidate who honestly wants to make our state better, who understands and is committed to policies that will achieve that objective, and who has framed his or her message in a way that can sell.
Reviewing myself as a candidate, I think I came into this campaign with very great strengths in the first two areas, and learned an awful lot over the course of the campaign as concerns the third.
In particular, I learned that running in a statewide general election is very different from running for mayor or in a statewide primary election. In the latter two situations, you can deluge voters with mail that gives them a very in-depth understanding of who you are as a person and what you want to accomplish in office. You cannot do that in a statewide general election because it just costs too much money. So you end up having to rely on 30-second television ads which inherently limit the depth of the message you can convey.
Knowing what I know now, and looking at how the above issues cut, if I were to re-run this general election campaign, I would not change my policy proposals, but I would re-phrase and simplify my message.
I would say that my number one priority was making New Jersey more affordable for working families.
As part of this, I would continue to commit to reducing high property tax and car insurance rates, to making housing more affordable, and to helping with health care and drug prescription costs.
But rather than emphasize the specific mechanics of the reforms I propose to accomplish these goals, I would just emphasize my determination to help those New Jerseyans who have been feeling the pinch these last four years, and highlight my success as a problem solver in Jersey City. (Voters dont care what you know until they know that you care.) And I would point out that Jim McGreevey is just too indebted to the status quo special interest groups that have been pushing up costs in New Jersey to achieve real change.
As a second campaign message, I would say that I was going to provide increased state funding for all public school districts, not just urban school districts, as the Democrats propose.
That would be the end of my broadcast message. I would pound away at these two issues and let the Democrats attack me on abortion and guns. After all their incredible spending, they never scored real points on these latter two issues. But they did score points on the issues of affordability and education.
Could we have won if we had rephrased and simplified our message on affordability and education? I dont know. The Democrats would still have had a huge financial advantage. The press would still have been outrageously partisan and unfair. That handful of Republican insiders would still have attacked me right through to Election Day. September 11th would still have made it hard to he heard. And most problematic of all, voters angry over the last four years of Republican governance would still have inclined towards giving the Democrats a chance to run things.
But I do think we could have done better.
Where We Go From Here
I will not be a candidate in the race for U. S. Senate, but I do want to help whoever is our candidate. So once I have paid off debts from this campaign, I intend to start a PAC to help him or her, as well as other New Jersey Republicans.
Ultimately, I want to keep our E-Army and campaign organization together and use it as a vehicle to forge a strong and unified Party that brings its different wings together while remaining true to core Republican principles.
I remained true to Republican principles as the Mayor of Jersey City and still won the support of its Democrat and Independent voters. I succeeded because on that smaller stage -- whether or not my message was always as simple and well-targeted as it might be -- I was able to get a winning message out. Our Partys disunity prevented me from doing that in this Governors election.
If you will support me as I try to help Republican candidates, I think we can prevent similar disunity problems from hampering our Party in the future. Indeed, I believe we can build a winning Republican Party that is able to successfully reform government and make it better serve the people of New Jersey.
Over the next four years, Jim McGreevey is going to do his best. I have no personal animus towards him. But in the end, I believe he will not succeed in lowering property taxes or car insurance premiums, he will not successfully increase our childrens learning, or make or cities better, or reverse suburban sprawl, or make New Jersey more affordable for our families because his policies are wrong.
Our policies are right. They offer the only hope for solving New Jerseys problems. We must better communicate our message and build bridges to all those organizations and constituencies which have misunderstood our proposals -- because ultimately, our obligation is to use our gifts to build a better world.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
I will be in touch soon with more information about how we can stay together and make a difference. But for now, allow me to just say thank you, thank you, thank you!
You have been an inspiration to me. You worked tremendously hard, in a selfless manner, to build a better New Jersey.
You fought the good fight. You lived the good life. You are heroes in our time.
My thanks and my prayers are with you!
What's missing from this analysis is a more detailed explanation of the perfidy of the Acting Governor, Donnie DiFrancesco. I've been taking notes throughout the course of the campaign, and will post a blow-by-blow account of Donnie's treachery shortly.
My only beef is that he is not going after the Torch. If he were, I'd feel better about 2002.
This is my position, too. First on my list is John Warner. He gets one chance to apologize to Ollie North and Michael Farris, or I will work hard to defeat him and stay home, if need be.
a) McGreevey outspent him about 4:1 on TV and radio commercials; and
b) New Jersey voters are so dumb, they bought into all those McGreevey commercials shrieking that Bret Schundler wanted to "put assault weapons back on our streets."
For a finer analysis than mine, written by a real NJ politcal analyst, go here: Jersey Lessons (National Review).
This is also key. He's going to be doing a little RINO hunting, too. I know there is one here in Virginia that I want REAL BAD.
I think John Warner here in VA may be the one we can make an example of, or at least use to "send a message." If he wantg our support, he'd better support our guys if they get the nominations.
Payback is NOT a lady.
Please bump me for the Donnie followup.
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