Further Adventures in Hilarious Lonegan Spin

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 17 2013 5:25 PM

Further Adventures in Hilarious Lonegan Spin

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Contrary to what you may have read, Steve Lonegan did indeed run TV ads.

Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images

As Sen.-elect Cory Booker conducts victory lap interviews and talks about moving to Anacostia when he gets to D.C., let us close the book on the amusing attempts to spin his easy win as a defeat. It's not the most important issue in the world, but this is a politics blog, and we are doing poorly on election news, so just indulge me.

Exhibit A (minor): The New York Times informs us that Booker had a tough go of it in the final week of this "rocky" campaign. (I won't dispute that—it was the guy's first actual campaign since 2002, and he finally had to answer for how he turned his fame into profit from his old law firm and his tech investments.)

Having started his political career by moving into a Newark housing project, Mr. Booker spent the final days before his Senate election beating back stories in the conservative news media that he did not actually live in the city; the fact that this story could catch hold at all suggested the level of suspicion aimed at the mayor in the city where he began his rise.
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This completes the loop of a year of good NYT coverage of Booker's Newark critics. They aren't new—they beat him in 2002, dogged him unsuccessfully in 2006, did better in 2010, and absolutely succeeded in getting coverage for the "he doesn't live in Newark" theory. It is, indeed, evidence of their persistence. But the critics are lonesome. Statewide, Booker won about 54.8 percent of the vote, compared with the 58.3 percent won by Barack Obama in 2012. Where did he underperform the president? Suburban/rural counties like Atlantic (8 points behind Obama) and Sussex (4 points behind Obama). Where did he do best? He ran even with Obama in Essex County—and about40 percent of the county lives in Newark.

Exhibit B (major): The Weekly Standard runs an analysis of the race by Jeff Bell, who lost a race for Senate in New Jersey 35 years ago, and who now works with the American Principles Project. He does not mention that the APP bought ads in New Jersey, but he does make an incredible claim about Steve Lonegan.

Lonegan was given zero chance of winning this election, and he waged his campaign with virtually zero resources—and no TV commercials—compared to the eight-figure Booker financial juggernaut. 

That's just a lie. Lonegan ran a half-dozen TV ads, closing out the race with this one.

Most of his ads were hits on Booker, but Lonegan did run some positive spots telling voters he was "the Jersey conservative."

What lesson did Bell take from this?

Contrast Lonegan’s performance with that of Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli, a long-time conservative hero who has reversed his past history and adhered closely to the Republican establishment playbook, including tacit embrace of the “truce” strategy on social issues. In the same weeks Lonegan was giving Cory Booker fits in New Jersey and closing to within 10 points in a “safe Democratic” Senate race, Cuccinelli was turning a dead-even race into a 10-point deficit against legendary Democratic sleaze ball Terry McAuliffe. What does this say about the GOP debate between the establishment and Ted Cruz-style militancy?

What, indeed, does this say about the infamous moderate candidacy of Ken Cuccinelli? Heck, Bell could have pointed out that the Virginia race has not been "dead even" since July, and that McAuliffe's relentless pounding of Cuccinelli on abortion and birth control laws has hurt him badly, but what would that say?

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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