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Trump vows to expand his Electoral Map to include New Jersey, but how realistic is it?

A win in New Jersey would mark a significant flip for Trump, who did not win the Garden State in either the 2016 or 2020 elections.No Republican presidential candidate has carried NJ since 1988, when George H. W. Bush faced Michael Dukakis.

Published: May 13, 2024 11:00pm

During a Saturday rally in Wildwood, N.J., former President Donald Trump touted what he declared to be growing support in traditionally blue states and expressed hope for an expansion of the electoral map in 2024.

“All across America, millions of people in so-called Blue States are joining our movement based on love, intelligence and a thing called common sense,” he said at a Saturday rally in Wildwood, N.J. Nearly 100,000 people attended the rally, according to ABC News-owned WABC-TV. 

Earlier this same week, he had insisted he could win New Jersey, saying that “we’re going for the state of New Jersey. We think we can win New Jersey and we think we can win a lot.”

A win in New Jersey would mark a significant flip for Trump, who did not win the Garden State in either the 2016 or 2020 elections. The state’s 14 electoral votes, moreover could prove pivotal in a close election, but pollsters are asking just how realistic the prospect of a Trump win is.

Trump’s prior vows

Trump’s 2016 contest saw him claim Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, three states a Republican had not won in decades. Saturday was far from the first time he had discussed the prospect of flipping additional Democratic strongholds.

In a January interview with Breitbart News, Trump pointed to former New York GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin’s nearly-successful 2022 gubernatorial run, saying "I believe we have a chance to win New York.”

“I believe we have a chance to win New Jersey. If you look at Lee, he lost by a pretty close race,” he went on. “But it’s 100 times worse now than it was two years ago. Now, you have people—you have migrants living on Madison Avenue.”

Later in March, moreover, he vowed a “very heavy play” for New York, his home state. Amid his ongoing criminal trial, he has been forced to generally remain in the area and has used the opportunity to hold smaller events within the city, as well as the Wildwood rally on the Jersey Shore.

Ahead of that event, Trump Campaign National Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt told the New York Post that “[t]here’s a lot of enthusiasm in New Jersey and wherever President Trump goes.”

“President Trump believes that New York, New Jersey, we’re going to make a play,” she continued. “The great people of New Jersey are fed up with Joe Biden’s regime.”

New Jersey is a Democratic bastion

New Jersey has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, when it supported George H.W. Bush over Mike Dukakis.

The state has not had an elected Republican senator since Clifford P. Chase, who left office in 1979. While Nicholas F. Brady and Jeffrey Chiesa served as Republican senators since then, both were appointed to complete the terms of Democratic lawmakers and never won statewide elections.

The most recent GOP governor was Chris Christie, who left office in 2018 after winning his second term in 2013. No Republican has won a top-level statewide election since. The 2021 gubernatorial election, however, was a near-upset in favor of the Republicans. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy just barely managed to fend off a challenge from Republican Jack Ciattarelli, earning a second term by a 51.2% to 48.0% margin.

The 2020 Senate election in which Democratic Sen. Cory Booker won reelection was much more decisive, with the incumbent defeating Republican Rik Mehta, 57.2% to 40.9%.

The RFK Jr. Factor

President Joe Biden defeated Trump in New Jersey during the 2020 election by a 57.3% to 41.4% margin. The 15.9% win kept the Garden State well inside “safe Democratic” territory, though polling data this cycle shows a margin closer contest.

While few polls have directly addressed New Jersey this cycle in light of its conventionally safe Democratic status, an Emerson College/The Hill survey in late March found Biden with a mere 7% lead over Trump in a one-on-one contest.

Biden led with 46% support to Trump’s 39% in that survey, while 15% were undecided. Bringing the race into battleground territory, however, was the inclusion of independent presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr., fellow independent Cornel West, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

In that scenario, Biden still led, albeit by a less impressive 5%. Biden earned 41% in that matchup, with Trump at 36%, Kennedy at 8%, West at 1%, and Stein at 1%, with 14% undecided.

It remains somewhat unclear whether Kennedy himself drew more from Trump or Biden, and that topic has driven considerable speculation in the media about which of the major candidates stands to suffer most from his candidacy. Nevertheless, Biden’s lead over Trump narrowed with his inclusion.

The Bob Menendez Factor

Potentially affecting the contest could be a divided Democratic ticket on the down-ballot Senate race. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez is currently on trial over allegations of accepting bribes and acting as a foreign agent.

He has pleaded not guilty and the trial has now proceeded to jury selection. Menendez announced in March, however, that he would not seek reelection as a Democrat and could instead do so as an independent.

"I will not file for the Democratic Primary this June. I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election," he said at the time.

The eventual Democratic nominee remains undecided, but Menendez’s criminal trial could cast a shadow over the senatorial contest, and potentially the presidential election, depending on the verdict and his potential candidacy as an independent Democrat.

Trump, for his part, recently weighed into the Senate race, endorsing Mendham Borough Mayor Serrano Glassner in the Republican primary. Glassner, when accepting the endorsement, suggested she intended to use Menendez’s legal woes to target the Democrats during the contest.

“New Jersey deserves better than the corrupt political establishment that gave us 'Gold Bar Bob' Menendez, and America deserves better than the unmitigated disaster of the Biden regime,” she said at the time.

Republican optimism

Between the prospect of a strong Kennedy performance, tightening poll data, turnout for Trump’s rally, and a litany of other issues, Republicans are optimistic that Trump can indeed win New Jersey in 2024.

A Republican National Committee spokesperson told Just the News that “[t]he Garden State is not happy with Democrat Leadership.”

They then pointed to the same Emerson College/The Hill poll mentioned above, but highlighted that “President Joe Biden holds a 40% job approval rating and 47% disapproval in New Jersey.” The Rasmussen Approval Index shows Biden's average disapproval rate hovering around 59% nationwide. 

“The top issue for New Jersey voters is the economy (39%), followed by housing affordability (12%), threats to democracy (11%), immigration (10%), healthcare (7%), crime (7%), and education (5%),” the spokesperson added.

The RNC spokesperson's highlighting of voter preference on issues comes as pollster Scott Rasmussen contended that Trump's ongoing criminal cases and any fallout from them was "already baked in" to the election and that voters would respond to appeals on those issues.

"So what does Donald Trump need to do? He needs to do the same thing he did in 2016," he said on the John Solomon Reports podcast. "Let the Democrats talk about him. Let them talk about what a jerk he is or what they don't like about him. And he needs to talk about issues."

"At the end of the 2016 campaign. A lot of people were shocked when the analysis came out. And they found that Trump spent an awful lot of time talking about issues. His instincts are pretty good on most issues," Rasmussen contended.

"There are more people that like his policies then like him. Now, he has a tremendous base that, you know, will do anything for him and they will continue to support him and believe that nobody else can get the job done, that's true. But there's also a lot of people who are saying, 'you know, we like what he did, I wish he didn't tweet so much,' or something else, but his policy that is his strong suit, and he, he has a way of articulating them, that connect with voters."

The Trump campaign's Leavitt, for her part, highlighted voter dissatisfaction with Biden’s record in New Jersey, specifically, and insisted that prior turnout at the Wildwood rally was indicative of surging support for Trump.

“From offshore wind projects resulting in whales washing up on the shore, to Bidenflation driving up costs, to migrant crime threatening the state thanks to Biden’s open border, Joe Biden has failed Garden State families and workers,” she said. “New Jersey voters are enthusiastic to show up for President Donald J. Trump at the polls this November, just like they showed up in Wildwood last weekend.”

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X.

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