Jun 06, 2012 4:10 AM GMT
Not a good day for the Obama Administration.
Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides. Both sought to present themselves as the truer Democrat – a theme brought to the forefront by the proxy battle that emerged in northern New Jersey between former President Clinton and President Obama.
Clinton endorsed Pascrell, who had been an early supporter of former first lady Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. Obama sent top adviser David Axelrod to New Jersey to campaign for Rothman, who backed Obama in 2008, and the president later called Rothman to the White House to indicate his support for the Bergen County congressman.
Both Democrats were first elected to the House in 1996, where they have represented neighboring districts in the suburbs west of New York City. Both ran unopposed in their primaries in 2010, then went on to win reelection in the general election by more than 20 points.
But redistricting in New Jersey required state lawmakers to eliminate one congressional district, and Rothman’s district was largely merged with Pascrell’s. Rothman opted to challenge Pascrell in the safely Democratic district rather than face a much more conservative electorate in a bid against neighboring Rep. Garrett Garrett (R-N.J.).
Early in the primary, Rothman appeared at first to be gaining ground by portraying Pascrell as more conservative — he even aired an ad declaring his support for gay marriage. But the backlash over how he portrayed Pascrell’s positions may have left a sour taste in the mouth of voters.