By Art Gallagher
Jennifer Beck had an internal poll showing her leading Vin Gopal by 17% in September. Gopal had a poll showing him losing to Beck by 6% in mid October. Another Gopal poll showed him winning by 1% last week. Beck said last week that she thought it was a 3% race. So how did Gopal pull off a 7% victory on Tuesday night?
Gopal’s campaign knocked on 40,000 doors in Asbury Park, Eatontown, Long Branch, Ocean Township and Tinton Falls, according to a veteran Democrat operative who participated in the effort.
The Senator-elect had a fresh and energetic army of volunteers and paid canvassers join his committed troops in the field on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Beck’s campaign closed with a Hail Mary pass and a fire drill.
Gopal’s strong and energetic GOTV finish explains his convincing margin of victory. It doesn’t explain how the Beck campaign went from high fives when they learned Gopal was their opponent in January , to a 17% lead in mid September, to a 6% lead in mid October, to a close race the week before the election.
In January, Beck celebrated Gopal’s candidacy by calling him a young man with no accomplishments who was the hand picked candidate of the Camden County Democrats:
“I’m unsurprised by Mr. Gopal’s hyper-negative statement announcing his candidacy, given he has no accomplishments of his own to stand on. After two unsuccessful attempts at holding public office before he even turned 30, it is no wonder that Vin has decided that the only path to victory is to try and discredit his opponent rather than speaking about his accomplishments. I will be running this campaign as I always have – on my record of being an independent, thoughtful voice for Monmouth County’s residents.”
Then Beck let Gopal spend 11 months defining himself as a successful small business owner who knows what it like to struggle. She let him define himself as a volunteer first responder and a generous fund raiser for charities who was endorsed by 100’s of small business owners and 100’s of Republicans.
Beck attempted to define Gopal as “Camden County Vin.” Most voters don’t know what that means and don’t think it sounds so bad. In Monmouth County, only Eagles fans know what Camden looks like.
Gopal successfully defined Beck as an unprincipled Christie ally who is out of touch with the people of the district. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Gopal kept selling it and enough voters to matter kept buying it. Gopal put Beck on defense and she played his game.
Gopal led the Monmouth Democrat Party for four years. During those four years he heavily outspent the Monmouth GOP and consistently lost. Yet Beck rejected the very willing strategic, tactical and operational support of GOP Chairman Shaun Golden and Co-Chair Christine Giordano Hanlon and their team. Beck controlled her own campaign too tightly. She dominated the campaigns of her running mates. She rejected the advice and willing support from the people who know how to beat Gopal and have done so for four years.
Vin Gopal beat Jennifer Beck by 7% on Tuesday night because his campaign knocked on 40,000 doors on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
But the campaign was close enough to win in the final days because Beck would not have the people who know Gopal’s weaknesses and how to beat him do what they love to do.
Beck also failed to coordinate or cooperate fully with the Guadagno campaign.
Beck’s April and September internal polls showed generic a Republican losing badly to generic a Democrat badly in the 11th district, yet she was leading Gopal by 17%. She should have tested another Republican name from the district against Gopal before concluding that she was the only Republican who could win in the district. It would have been instructive to see how Freeholder Tom Arnone or Hanlon tested against Gopal. My guess is that either Arnone or Hanlon would have tested well against Gopal.
The September poll also showed Phil Murphy out polling Kim Guadagno in the district; 39%-33% with 23% undecided. This was a significant improvement for Guadagno from an early April poll performed for the Beck campaign. In April, Murphy was leading in the district 41%-29%, according to Beck’s poll.
Yet, despite Guadagno’s surge in the district, Beck did not coordinate or cooperate with the GOP gubernatorial campaign down the stretch.
In the end, Guadagno outperformed Beck in the district. Guadagno got 28,557 votes in the district to Beck’s 27,027. Murphy only won 50.5% of the vote in the 11th with 30,414 votes Guadagno got 47.5% and 2% voted for someone else. Gopal won with 53.43% with 31,047 votes to Beck’s 46.51%.
Beck outperformed the Monmouth County Freeholder candidates, Freeholder Director Lillian Burry and Freeholder-elect Patrick Impreveduto in the 11th. The GOP freeholder candidates averaged 45% of the vote in the 11th compared to the Dems 54%. On a percentage basis, the Dem freeholder candidates outperformed Gopal and Murphy in the district. But Monmouth is a big county. Burry and Impreveduto won countywide 52.1% to 47.8%.
We’ll never know how an LD 11 campaign coordinated with the Monmouth GOP and the Guadagno campaign would have worked out. We do know that Beck ran as a lone ranger and that didn’t work out.
I would have liked to see Beck define Gopal as she started to in January….as an unaccomplished young man with a history of nasty, dishonest campaigns and an embellished resume. It would not have been a hard sell. We’ll never know how that campaign, with Gopal playing defense, would have worked out.
Gopal ran a superior campaign to the Beck’s. Now he is a Senator-elect, a successful small businessman who knows what it is like to go without a paycheck, a volunteer first responder and a generous philanthropist with the same mission he has always had… to turn Monmouth County blue.