Republican Rep. Jon Runyan is only in his second term, but he quickly established himself as a very difficult target. His retirement from New Jersey’s 3rd District gives Democrats a better opportunity there, but this is no longer a pure tossup race.
The South Jersey area has been competitive, and President Barack Obama has carried the district twice. But the only time a Democrat has won the congressional seat in recent history was 2008, when John Adler won the open seat. That was a good Democratic year and it was also a slightly more Democratic district. The Democratic areas of Cherry Hill in Camden County were drawn out of the 3rd District prior to the 2012 elections.
Democrats have a credible candidate in Aimee Belgard, who represents more than half of the congressional district as a Burlington County freeholder. But Belgard and her party could have a hard time keeping up in the spending race in a district that is divided between the Philadelphia and New York City media markets.
Republicans nominated wealthy insurance executive Tom MacArthur. He has some potential vulnerabilities in his background with regard to his business and disaster relief, and he recently moved to the district from north Jersey. But he is very personable and has shown a willingness to spend what it takes to win.
MacArthur just went up with a "significant cable buy” in Burlington County, according to one GOP operative. The county is covered by the Philadelphia media market. The 60-second ad is entitled “Integrity.”
The bottom line is that this has traditionally been a Republican-leaning district at the congressional level, Republicans have a credible candidate, and this is turning out to be at least a slightly Republican-leaning midterm election cycle. We are changing our Rothenberg Political Report /Roll Call rating of New Jersey’s 3rd District from pure Tossup to Tossup/Tilts Republican .
You can read my full analysis of the race in the July 8 edition of The Rothenberg Political Report ($).