An Evening with Mark Mellman

Dec. 1, 2011: Mark Mellman, leading national pollster and communication strategist, visited the Mercer Room of Daly Dining Hall on the Lawrenceville Campus of Rider University. He spoke about "The National Political Landscape Heading into 2012."

Watch the video here.

An Evening with George Norcross III

Oct. 5, 2011: George Norcross III, the successful philanthropist, businessman and political leader, delivered an adddress at Rider University called "Education Reform, and the Leadership Needed to Make it Happen."

See the full video here.

A Public Conversation between the Hon. Mitch Daniels and the Hon. Chris Christie

Sept. 22, 2011: Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana and author of "Keeping the Republic: Saving America By Trusting Americans" and the Hon. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, appeared at Rider.

To see the full video of the conversation, click here.

10th anniversary of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics

June 10, 2011: The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics celebrated its 10th anniversary.

View a photo gallery here.

A Conversation with Former New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne

April 14, 2011: Former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne, one of the most insightful — and funny — people in political life, was interviewed before the audience on the major issues of his administration (state income tax, Atlantic City gambling, the Meadowlands, Pinelands Wildlife Preserve, etc.) as well as the state of politics over the last 20 years.

View the video of the interview here.

An Evening With U.S. Senator Bob Menendez

March 22, 2011: The U.S. Senator visited Rider's campus to deliver "A Report from Washington, D.C."

Watch the video here.

An Evening With Former Governor Thomas H. Kean

Feb. 23, 2011: The former New Jersey Governor and chairman of the national commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks visited as a part of the Institute's ongoing Governing New Jersey series.

Watch the video here.

Third Annual Campaign Managers Conference

Feb. 10, 2011: Rebovich's post-mortem series continued with a discussion of the special election for the State Senate that took place in November 2010 between Republican incumbent Senator Tom Goodwin and Democratic Assemblywoman (and eventual winner) Linda Greenstein. Insiders from both campaigns will talk about what happened and why.

Watch the Campaign Managers Conference video here.

Guest speaker: Frank Newport, President, Gallup Poll

Nov. 17, 2010: Frank Newport, Gallup Poll president, appeared in Sweigart Auditorium at 7 p.m.

For those who wanted to understand more about what happened in the 2010 elections a few weeks before, it doesn't get better than Newport, who heads the Gallup Poll. From his position, he has a unique view of both the larger national trends and the dynamics of individual races across the country.

Watch the video here.

Brown Bag Lunch with Melanie Willoughby, VP of the NJ Business & Industry Assoc.

Nov. 9, 2010: Rebovich's Brown Bag Lunch Series continued with Melanie Willoughby, a leading lobbyist and association strategist in Trenton.

Brown Bag Lunch with Eleanor Clift, contributing editor of Newsweek magazine

Oct. 26, 2010: As a part of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Scholar Program, Clift visited Rider. The Brown Bag Lunch Series was a special benefit offered to those students who have signed up to be on the Rebovich Institute's mailing list.

Guest speaker: David Shuster, MSNBC reporter

Oct. 19, 2010: Shuster, a well-known reporter and show host, talked about the upcoming midterm elections and the role of the media in politics.

Watch the video here.

The Legacy and Lessons of 9/11 — A presentation by John J. Farmer, Jr.

Sept. 12, 2010: Farmer, the dean of Rutgers Law School (Newark) and former senior counsel and team leader for the 9/11 Commission, appeared at Rider.

Watch the video here.

Rep. Holt and Scott Sipprelle Debate

Oct. 13, 2010: The two candidates for New Jersey's 12th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell Township) and Republican challenger Scott Sipprelle, debated at Rider University's Yvonne Theater.

Watch a video of the debate here.

Election Day 2010 Commentary from Ben Dworkin, Director
Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics

The following is on-the-record commentary from Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. You can use these comments in whole or in part, so long as appropriate attribution is made. For additional comments or elaboration, please feel free to contact Ben Dworkin on his cell at 201-820-5995.

Election Day Commentary from Ben Dworkin — 6:25 p.m.

The Tea Party Misnomer

Following the election, much will be said about the impact of the "tea party" segment of the population. Their influence on Republican primaries across the nation is undeniable, and their probable influence in the next Congress is significant.

But the term "tea party" — as applied in this election — is a misnomer. The tea party label is an attempt to impose organization on something that emerged quite naturally in the electorate.

Recall the summer of 2009. Democratic members of Congress in New Jersey, and around the country, were inundated with angry voters who were coming out to protest the possible changes in the health care system. There wasn't a tea party organization. There were just frustrated and angry citizens.

Clearly today, we can look at these public outbursts as a sign of things to come.

I believe there is a large segment of the electorate who are seeking "change with fiscal restraint." These are the people who give the tea party their strength, even if they don't consider themselves members of the tea party.

The Swing Voters of 2010

Forget Soccer Moms. Forget Nascar Dads. "Change with fiscal restraint" voters are the swing voters in today's electorate. (Yes, I know it's not as catchy a phrase, but that doesn't make it wrong.)

New Jersey provides an ideal example of how these voters can shift. In 2008, Obama won New Jersey by 18%. The next year, Christie wins by more than 80,000 votes. I think the biggest swing segment of the population were the "change with fiscal restraint" voters.

In 2008, these voters were not against the Iraq War per se, but they were upset about spending $1 billion a week and not having a clear victory. Later on, these voters were not against the idea of health care reform; indeed, many will benefit directly from some of the changes. But they were upset with spending a trillion dollars to get it done.

Obama offered different change for different people. Some saw him as a vehicle for a new progressive approach to public policy. Some saw him as a change to the stifling bitterness of Washington. Some saw him as more reasonable on spending matters than the Bush administration.

Where the Democrats make a critical mistake is when they lump all the "change voters" together. They are not all the same. The "change with fiscal restraint" voters are those who can vote for someone like Obama one year and then Christie the next.

Congressional Democrats brought significant change to Washington over the last two years. They have a list of accomplishments that is as broad as any Congress since 1932. However, they can hardly claim to be speaking for those who wanted "change with fiscal restraint" and those are the people who are most likely to abandon the Democrats for the Republicans in this election. They are the pivotal swing voters in 2010.

We're Not France

Unlike some other countries, when Americans are upset with a given policy, we tend not to have strikes that shut down government.

The most universal way that American citizens express their frustration with their government is through voting. Today is the day when ordinary people get to officially vent their displeasure with the direction of the country and our leaders. They almost always do this by voting for the candidates who are not in power.

They might not care for the people for whom they are voting, but this is their one chance to hold the people in charge accountable. This is why we see poll after poll showing voters have a strongly unfavorable view of the Republican party, and yet the GOP is likely to experience the largest national Congressional victory in history.

Lemonade from Lemons

The average gain of the party not in the White House during a president's first midterm election is 26 seats. In this kind of economy, it is clear that this number is likely to double. Given the fact that Democrats won so many seats in traditional Republican areas in the 2006 and 2008 elections, many prognosticators are talking today about a 70 seat swing to the GOP. Charlie Cook, the legendary political campaign horserace analyst, now says that 120 seats are "in play."

That the Democrats will lose seats is not questioned. That they are almost sure to lose control of the House is extremely likely.

In this kind of environment, Democrats will try to benefit from the low expectations most observers have for their party. If they "only" lose 50 seats, then that it's not quite the tsunami that was predicted over the last weekend of the campaign.

It's still pretty devastating to lose 50 seats, but anything less than 70 will be pitched as a victory.

The Future

The big debate in the future will not be about the role of government in our lives, though surely that will be a part of it. No, the big confrontation coming is going to be about how we are to understand politics.

On one side will be those who believe that politics is fundamentally about bargaining, negotiation and compromise in order to get the majority of votes to pass something.

On the other side will be those who believe that the politics of bargaining, negotiation and compromise are the very things that got America going in the wrong direction.

There are many members of Congress who are willing to reach across the aisle to find accommodation and bi-partisanship. But they won't do it if it is going to mean a vigorous primary challenge back at home (see US Senate GOP primaries in KY, UT, DE, AK as examples).

That's one of the political lessons that officeholders will take from 2010: "Shake hands with the other side and you are tainted. Work with them and you have no principles. Bipartisanship is for those who have been sucked into the Washington cesspool of backroom deal making."

It's no longer about creating new laws for a diverse country. It's about purity in the pursuit of such laws.

And this will be the great irony of 2010, assuming the predictions of a GOP wave prove true: Despite wanting things to be different, Americans are likely to get far more stalemate than anything else. And the die-hard partisans on both sides will be to blame.

Election Day Commentary from Ben Dworkin — 2:50 p.m.

Close Races All Around

We have not seen so many close races for Congress in New Jersey in decades. Districts 3, 6 and 12 are all likely to be decided by a few percentage points.

In addition, major races for Bergen County Executive and the special election for state Senate in the 14th legislative district will also be close.

The closeness of these races reflects a few things: First, the political climate is being driven by the bad economy. People are angry and frustrated and therefore, as expected, they express that frustration by voting for someone who is not in charge. Second, the Republicans knew it was going to be a good year for their party. (The first midterm election when there is a new president is always good for the party that is not in control of the White House.) Therefore, the GOP recruited serious candidates who have run very credible campaigns. There were no sacrificial lambs in the targeted districts.

Interpretations Abound

No matter what the outcome, partisans on each side will interpret it as having significance beyond whatever district was involved. This may or may not be the case, but it is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you claim a mandate long enough and loud enough, the press — and therefore the public — will eventually believe that it actually was a mandate.

These races may well be decided by local concerns and the personalities of the candidates, but those who insist there is a "larger meaning" to what happens today are likely to get the attention of the media over the next week. This is how things that don't really have anything to do with national politics end up being understood as having everything to do with national politics.

Christie Unbound

The Governor has a lot riding on this election. This is not just because he campaigned vigorously for dozens of candidates around the country.

For the Governor, it's probably more important to see how Republican congressional candidates do here in New Jersey. If Republicans are able to knock off any of the incumbent Democrats in the state, Christie and his supporters will show that it is evidence that the Governor's brand of Republicanism can really deliver victories in the northeast.

We should remember that over the last two election cycles, northeast Republican members of Congress have been decimated; "an extinct species" said some pundits after 2008. So if Christie can claim that he "delivered" GOP victories in the House in blue New Jersey, it will further brandish his image in the national Republican party and provide him with an even bigger platform heading in to the 2012 election cycle.

By the same token, if Democratic incumbents hold on to their seats in New Jersey, some of the shine on the Governor's image will be tarnished because he wasn't able to roll back the Democrats in his own backyard.

A Conversation with Hon. Joseph Roberts, Jr., former Speaker of the NJ General Assembly

April 14, 2010: Former Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly Joseph Roberts, Jr. was interviewed by Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for NJ Politics, before a crowd of 100 students, faculty and community members.

Over the course of a fascinating hour, Roberts discussed his career, successes and missteps, advice for others and the future of New Jersey politics.

Watch the video here.

The second annual Campaign Managers Conference: Key Decision Makers Look Back at N.J.'s 2009 Gubernatorial Race

Feb. 11-12, 2010: Political pundits from coast to coast had their eyes fixed on the results of New Jersey's gubernatorial race in 2009, eager to analyze the results and find the proper perspective. Three months later, the smoke has cleared. Republican Chris Christie has assumed control of the state's top office, and six of the election's most influential advisers gathered at Rider University's Lawrenceville campus to discuss the behind-the-scenes tactics employed by each party to deliver victory for their candidate.

Videos of each of the four sessions can be accessed below:

Session 1 — Polling the Electorate
Adam Geller (Christie campaign)

Session 2 — Campaign Strategy
Mike DuHaime (Christie campaign)
Maggie Moran (Corzine campaign)

Session 3 — Campaign Management
Bill Stepien (Christie campaign)
Kevin Drennan (Corzine campaign)

Session 4 — The Media Campaign
Mike DuHaime (Christie campaign)
Brad Lawrence (Corzine campaign)

Governing New Jersey: Corzine, Christie and Daggett

September 2009: Rider's Lawrenceville campus is a mere five miles from the New Jersey State House, but when the Garden State's next governor takes the oath of office in January, he might recall that his path took him straight through the Bart Luedeke Center Theater. The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics of Rider University hosted all three major candidates in the state's gubernatorial race over the course of one week in September through its inaugural Governing New Jersey series.

To view the full video:

Christopher Daggett, the independent candidate for governor, spoke on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
Chris Christie, the Republican challenger for the state's top office, spoke on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine concluded the Governing New Jersey series on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

To listen to the full audio:

Christopher Daggett
Chris Christie
Gov. Jon S. Corzine