The title question is one that’s clearly on the mind of Congressman Jeff Van Drew this week. As you may recall, he’s the New Jersey Democrat who announced that the impeachment of Donald Trump disgusted him so much that he was switching over to the GOP last December. This made him an immediate favorite around the White House as you might expect and he was quickly invited to a personal meeting with the President for dinner and photo ops. But back home the story was playing out somewhat differently.
Van Drew represents Atlantic City. His district went for Trump by five points in 2016, so you might think the party switch is giving him a boost. That’s possible, but times have changed since the pandemic blew into town. This is looking like an extremely tight race at the moment. And as this analysis from CNN points out, it might wind up being more of a referendum on President Trump than a contest between Van Drew and his Democrat opponent, Amy Kennedy of the famous Kennedy clan.
Van Drew’s Democratic challenger, Amy Kennedy, is a former schoolteacher born and raised in South Jersey; she is also the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The race is only nominally between Kennedy and Van Drew, however. As in down-ballot contests across the country this year, Trump looms large here — perhaps even more so because of the public embrace between Van Drew and the President.
“What’s happening at the top of the ticket is really defining the down-ballot races,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which recently surveyed the race for New Jersey’s Second Congressional District. “It’s much, much harder this time around than it has been in the past to establish yourself as an independent voice.”