A New Jersey congressman who left the Democratic Party for the GOP during the Trump era was pressed Tuesday on whether he believes a Republican can capture a Garden State senate seat for the first time in 50 years, and whether he could be the one to do so.
In the wake of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez‘s second indictment in a decade on public corruption charges, a slew of key politicians, called for his ouster – including fellow Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker.
FOX Business host Larry Kudlow pressed Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., on whether he might consider taking advantage of the weakened three-term incumbent.
“Oh, if I run, I’ll beat him,” Van Drew said Tuesday on “Kudlow.”
Van Drew added if he does announce a run, he is also confident he would win the GOP primary.
Other Republicans vying for Menendez’ seat slammed the senator following his indictment, with Mendham Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner dubbing him “Gold Bar Bob” – after gold bars and cash were allegedly discovered during the investigation.
Van Drew underlined that he is not yet prepared to make a formal decision on a run, telling FOX Business he is more focused on the pressing issues facing Congress.
“But I have to think about this serious consideration. And this is not a political answer,” he said.
“Right now, I am focused on this budget deadline that’s looming this week. I have to focus on the task-at-hand and what’s going on right now in Congress. But I’m going to talk about this with my family, my friends, my closest advisers, and make a decision.”
In 2019, Van Drew publicly changed parties after joining then-President Donald Trump in the Oval Office and declaring, “This is just a better fit for me.” The Cape May lawmaker has since been re-elected twice as a Republican.
A Republican has not won a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey since Sen. Frank Case’s landslide 1972 victory, though former Gov. Chris Christie appointed his attorney general, Jeff Chiesa, for a brief tenure upon the 2013 death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Kudlow noted to Van Drew that the GOP greatly outperformed expectations in the 2021 General Assembly and Senate elections, where Republicans scored six and two seats respectively, suggesting there may be an opening for Republicans to play spoiler.
In that race, then-furniture truck driver Edward Durr, R-Gloucester, launched a quixotic bid for the State Senate and ended up unseating chamber President Steve Sweeney, D-Deptford in a stunning upset.
Van Drew said whoever the 2024 GOP candidate for Menendez’ seat is, they must be a strong figure who stands on principle and policy, and not “pablum.”
He said hard-working people in the otherwise blue state of New Jersey are unifying over the idea that there are real issues facing the state and the country, and that it is at a political “breaking point.”
“Years ago, I was a Democrat: I know how it works – And they orchestrate everything,” he said.
Van Drew suspected Democrats are quietly working to “move [Menendez] out as quickly as they can, bring somebody else in and say, ‘Oh, this is new and different, this is a better candidate, and you should vote for this person’.”
“That’s the mistake that would be made if people do vote for them, because it’s about a… socialist philosophy.”