By Dennis “DJ” Mikolay
Jeff Bell’s supporters are feeling optimistic these days. Their candidate of choice, who mere weeks ago was dismissed by critics as having embarked on a futile endeavor, recently shocked his varied detractors and scored multiple political victories. The most obvious among these is the fact that, even though he didn’t receive a single GOP county endorsement during this month’s primary election, the former Reagan advisor won the Republican Party’s nomination, emerging victorious from a field of four candidates. It was the second time Bell, who unseated incumbent Senator Clifford Case in the late 1970s, made electoral history. That he could round out this reputation with a third upset (by defeating Senator Cory Booker in November) is an exciting prospect for many voters, hopeful the Garden State may finally send a Republican to Washington.
And then, there are the polls. Though he was originally considered something of an underdog within his own party, a recent Rasmussen poll showed Bell trailing the incumbent by a mere thirteen points. For the uninitiated, that is a narrow margin for a Republican running for United States Senate in New Jersey; it’s higher than Mayor Steve Lonegan’s numbers were at the same point in the campaign season last year.
Finally, the other three Republican primary candidates (libertarian Murray Sabrin, businessman Brian Goldberg, and conservative activist Rich Pezzullo) each put their ideological differences aside and united behind Bell, publicly backing his campaign and its economic goals. Speaking via telephone earlier this week, it was clear Bell is pleased with this post-primary unification, a benefit not all candidates enjoy.
“They have all endorsed me and a couple appeared for me,” he said. “That’s all going very well; they are very supportive of my candidacy. I haven’t really had any pushback from the Republican Party in New Jersey since winning the nomination. I think it will be united.”
Now, with November less than five months away, it is time for Bell to steer the conversation and introduce his message to the public as a whole. For the Republican, fiscal matters rein supreme, particularly in regards to the fledgling United States economy. In that respect, much has been made of his support for the gold standard. While there will likely be attempts to shift the discussion to higher-profile topics, be they social issues or economic matters, Bell plans to highlight the issues he believes have stifled America’s financial recovery. For example, he slammed the Federal Reserve’s zero-interest rate policy, saying it is “crushing the economy” and vowed to “make sure that there is a debate on it.”
Of course, there are other issues to be discussed, many of which are not of a directly monetary nature. In regards to foreign policy, Bell isn’t bashful about the fact he comes from the Ronald Reagan school of thought and believes the strategic use of force is necessary to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (better known in the West as ISIS) and to eliminate potential threat to American safety.
“We have to go intervene,” Bell said. “We should use the air force to bomb [ISIS] formations in Syria and Iraq and we need to take the lead in training the Iraqi army, not allow Iran to be the only player and certainly not to take the lead in comparison to us…it would benefit mainly Iran if we continue to be passive in our view of how to help the Iraqi government.”
Bell’s candidacy may have been relatively low-key during the primary, though he is now ramping up his activities, appearing on Fox News and campaigning throughout the state in addition to his newly developed social media presence. A lot has undoubtedly changed since his last bid for office; however, Bell believes he is in a favorable position this election, especially compared to his previous runs. While Senator Booker remains a political superstar, Bell feels he is vulnerable, especially when compared to his first Democratic adversary, Bill Bradley.
“Bradley was iconic and Booker has some significant negatives,” Bell said. “He is still the most popular state-wide politician…but he has some more negatives than Bradley had at a comparable time.”