NJ Republicans prepping for convention

August 30, 2008 9:37:22 AM PDT
New Jersey Republican leaders want grass-roots members of their party to return home after the coming week's party convention in St. Paul, Minn., fired up about John McCain's chances of winning in the Garden State.Never mind that the Arizona senator is 10 points behind in the polls in New Jersey.

Forget that Barack Obama has squeezed $3.6 million more from New Jerseyans than McCain through June.

No matter that no Republican presidential candidate has carried blue Jersey since 1988.

"At the end of the day, there are far more independent and undeclared voters who vote for candidates," said Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson.

Days after the Democrats wrapped up their presidential nominating process in Denver, New Jersey Republicans planned to gather in St. Paul, Minn., as their party prepared to answer with the nomination of McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin.

Some 250 New Jersey Republicans were planning to be in Minnesota for the convention, which runs Sept. 1-4. The list includes New Jersey's 52 delegates, plus family members, other party loyalists and honorary delegates.

"Our biggest and primary focus is kicking off this last eight-week sprint to get John McCain elected president," said Sen.

Bill Baroni, who chairs McCain's New Jersey campaign.

McCain named Palin, the little-known governor or Alaska, as his running mate Friday. The choice drew praise among New Jersey Republicans.

"She is a governor who appeals to the independent middle," said Baroni. He said New Jersey, which has suffered from corruption, "will look to Sarah Palin as a fellow traveler with John McCain on the road to reform."

Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean praised the experience Palin brings to the ticket.

"She clearly has the judgment to be one of our nation's most effective and popular governors," he said. "She is a tough executive, who knows how to bring together Democrats and Republicans. New Jersey can identify with this ticket that really will reform Washington."

Like at the Democratic National Convention last week in Denver, no New Jerseyan has a prominent speaking role at the Republican gathering.

Some of New Jersey's best-known Republicans, like state Sen.

Leonard Lance, are skipping the convention altogether to campaign at home. (Lance is running for Congress in the 7th Congressional District against Democrat Linda Stender.) Rep. Frank LoBiondo also planned to remain behind, said Wilson.

The New Jersey party picked honorary delegates from all 21 counties, who will attend the festivities "to show the true breadth of support Sen. McCain enjoys," said Baroni.

Among the honorary delegates are new volunteers, veterans and young people who have never attended a political convention, Baroni said. There are also 49 alternate delegates.

Baroni said the convention will enable New Jersey's McCain team to be in one place for four days to strategize and meet with their counterparts in other states.

Wilson said the convention will allow Republicans to hone the message they will take to the November election.

"For John McCain, it's an opportunity to show that the maverick still lives on," said Wilson. "This is someone who has spent his entire life promoting a cause greater than his own self-interest."

Several prominent national Republicans are scheduled to address the New Jersey delegation including former Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani, who had widespread support in New Jersey before he ceded the race to McCain, and Florida Gov. Charlie Christ.

On the Net:

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