That’s the dilemma NJ State Senator Joe Kyrillos faces as the final weeks of the Republican primary wind down to the June 5 election. Kyrillos was anointed by the GOP Establishment to run against Robert Menendez for the U.S. Senate and figured he’d cruise through the primary without having to defend his record – an expectation dashed to the ground by Sussex County entrepreneur and political neophyte Bader Qarmout, who emerged suddenly and from deep left field to make the U.S. Senate primary a true race. Unlike Kyrillos, Qarmout is a Movement Conservative who enthusiastically embraces the political evangel of Ronald Reagan.
Roseann Salanitri, Qarmout’s campaign manager, explains:
Qarmout has been able to rally the citizens of New Jersey with a Conservative message that resonates with the TEA parties. As a result of his grassroots movement and strong messaging, a few of the most prominent TEA parties in the State have rallied to support him with their endorsements.
Leading the TEA Party charge was the Monmouth County TEA Party Coalition, followed by The Bayshore TEA Party Group, says Salanitri. It should be noted that both these groups are in the establishment candidate’s back yard, and the Bayshore TEA Party endorsement was made after conducting a straw poll. The era of the career politician may be nearing an end in New Jersey as citizens have begun to vet candidates themselves instead of accepting those who are ordained by the higher powers.
The most recent group to join this citizens’ movement is The West Jersey TEA Party, which endorsed Qarmout after changing their non-endorsement policy. Other TEA parties with similar policies are also considering change in order to be able to stand behind their Conservative champion. The Qarmout campaign is encouraged as it waits for other TEA parties, as well as other like-minded organizations to join this list of citizen activists.
It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next three weeks. Insofar as it will need all the money and resources it can get to do battle with Menendez in the months following the primary, the Kyrillos campaign has apparently decided to lay low and ignore Qarmout – a strategy that makes perfect political sense in light of Qarmout’s inexperience, low name recognition, lack of resources and a campaign staff that is woefully undermanned for a U.S. Senate race. Engaging Qarmout in a debate – or even recognizing him as a viable opponent – would oblige the Kyrillos campaign to divert precious time and resources to battling Qarmout while risking a bruising exposure of the fact that the Republican Party’s conservative base is less than enthusiastic about his candidacy.
Besides, Kyrillos has CNJ thugs Rob Eichmann, Bill Winkler and Richard Zeundt in his corner. For the past month, these pseudo-conservatives have mounted a relentless campaign of personal destruction against Qarmout with the Alinskyite modus operandi of half-truths, distortions, outright fabrications, defamation and character assassination.
Unfortunately for them, the plan isn’t working out quite as they hoped it would. In the fever swamp of their minds, Qarmout was supposed to wither on the vine and drop out of the race, leaving the road wide open for Kyrillos to run unopposed. Just the opposite happened: the attacks only strengthened Qarmout’s determination and impelled him to campaign even harder – yet another example of the law of unintended consequences coming home to bite the hand that set it in motion.
I’m reminded of the “Pat Noble Comes to Bayshore” Affair that erupted last year as part of the jihad CNJ launched against the Bayshore Tea Party Group after they dared say “no” to Boss Lonegan.
As part of its policy of giving all candidates for local office the opportunity to address the membership, the BTPG invited Pat Noble, a candidate for Monmouth County Freeholder on the Socialist ticket, to come and speak. He did, there was some lively discussion and debate and then a few days later most folks forgot it ever happened.
But not the idiots at CNJ: smelling blood in the water, they went in for the kill and proceeded to savage the Bayshore group for daring to give a platform to the Loathèd Enemy. The attacks were relentless and sustained but ultimately achieved only one thing: they created the kind of name recognition for Pat Noble that only thousands of advertising dollars could purchase. Within a couple of weeks, his campaign website was receiving hundreds of visits where previously only a handful stopped by. His campaign received donations from fellow travelers who otherwise would never have known about his candidacy but for CNJ’s cynical caterwauling. The candidate even posted a comment on the CNJ site thanking them for the publicity. Ultimately, Noble lost his bid to become Freeholder – but the fact remains that he would have campaigned in utter obscurity and the number of votes he received would have been far fewer had Zeundt and Company acted with maturity, wisdom and discretion.
The same holds true in the present case: had CNJ simply ignored Bader Qarmout or vetted him in a respectful and civil manner, he would have campaigned in obscurity and lost in a landslide. By defaming and vilifying him, they put him on the radar screen as an unjustly beleaguered underdog. Now that he has the sympathetic attention of Tea Party groups who are all too familiar with the recent history of CNJ and its new role as the attack dog for the pseudo-conservative subsidiary of the Establishment GOP, his political stock – namely, his popularity and name recognition – will only increase in value.
While it can’t be predicted with any certainty, it’s entirely possible that at some point between now and June 5, the Kyrillos campaign will have to deal with Bader Qarmout – and in so doing, will be obliged to divert time, energy and resources to that end – and all because the idiots at CNJ couldn’t restrain themselves.
Let’s be clear: Kyrillos will more than likely win the primary race. But by what margin? Let’s say that when the dust clears on election night, Kyrillos defeats Qarmout by 25 points (65% to 35%). It certainly would be a clear-cut victory but it would also reveal that over a third of primary voters preferred a conservative neophyte over an experienced RINO – hardly an expression of confidence in the frontrunner or unity within the GOP.
But what if the margin is closer and Qarmout closes the gap to 10 points? What if the final tally is 55% to 45%? It will send a clear signal to Menendez that Kyrillos does NOT enjoy a full-throated roar of support from the conservative base of the Republican Party, presaging a Democrat campaign that will ensure Kyrillos’ defeat in November.
And he’ll have Moe, Larry and Curly at CNJ to thank for it.