WILDWOOD — The Trump rally here will officially welcome U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew into the GOP fold, after a controversial party switch last month, according to political experts.
Van Drew has been racking up endorsements from Republican leaders since President Donald Trump announced he endorsed Van Drew and would visit the district for a rally with him.
“It’s going to be a big celebration, sort of a celebration of America and some fun,” Van Drew said, with good weather expected, as well as some protesters.
GOP political consultant Carl Golden said the impact of the rally will be even greater than Van Drew’s Dec. 19 news conference with Trump in the Oval Office, in which the 2nd district congressman announced he would become a Republican after decades as a Democrat.
“But when ... you pick up a paper and it says the president is coming to our district — there are 435 districts in the country, and he’s going to one in South Jersey — that’s a major development,” Golden said.
As of last week, all eight Republican chairs in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Ocean, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties had endorsed Van Drew. So had several state legislators, and local leaders in Galloway Township and Somers Point who had previously endorsed a primary opponent David Richter, of Avalon and Princeton.
The momentum seemed unstoppable.
Primary opponent Brian Fitzherbert, 30, of Egg Harbor Township, dropped out of the race, and Richter said he was considering running in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District instead of the 2nd.
Richter said Friday he will weigh all his options and decide soon about what he will do.
Coalescing the GOP behind Van Drew may be happening just in time, as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added his race to its list of battleground races, where it plans to focus resources and energy.
The DCCC started Facebook ads Friday targeting Van Drew, telling voters Trump had said he is open to cutting Medicare in an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“Trump is turning his back on seniors,” the ad says. “Will Washington Republicans follow his lead?”
Van Drew said he is committed to protecting Medicare.
“It’s important for me keep Medicare stable,” Van Drew said Friday. “I believe at the end of the day the president understands how important senior citizens are.”
Golden said the rally will help Van Drew not only cement party support but also help with fund raising and everything else a campaign needs.
“Whether you agree or don’t, want to impeach or don’t, it’s drawing a great deal of attention,” Golden said.
It shows Trump cares about the district, and about Jeff Van Drew, Golden said.
Fund raising will be important, since the DCCC has said it raised $129 million in 2019, much of which will be used to defeat Republicans in battleground districts.
In announcing the ads, the DCCC accused House Republicans of backing Trump’s “efforts to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions and keep prescription drug costs high. Voters deserve to know if Van Drew will also blindly support his plan to gut Medicare,” said DCCC spokesperson Christine Bennett.
But Van Drew voted for the legislation to lower drug prices, called H.R.3, which among other things would allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. It passed the House in December with mostly Democratic support, but some Republicans signed on to it. It is not expected to pass the Republican- dominated Senate.
Van Drew has said his support for H.R. 3 and other bills to lower drug costs remain unchanged after his party switch.