It Didn’t Make the 6 O’Clock News

June 24 2013

Bob Braun, a former longtime columnist for The Star-Ledger, is following Rush Holt’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. He will be sharing his thoughts and his stories from the campaign trail from time to time.

Michelle Arrisueno has endorsed Rush Holt for United States senator.  It didn’t make the 6 o’clock news.

Hey, no surprise.  Michelle is just a recent college graduate working as hard as she can to help Rush win the August 13 primary. The media  traditionally cover campaigns by giving space or time to Big Names who say Important Things—or Experts, otherwise known as Talking Heads. They often ignore what really matters in a campaign. Like how issues affect the depth of popular support for a guy like Rush.

Big mistake. Because, with this midsummer’s campaign dash to the  primary, people like Michelle and hundreds of thousands of other voters just like her throughout New Jersey will play a crucial role. People like Michelle will determine the winner. Not the Big Names who say Important Things. Or the Experts.

’’I’ve thought a lot about it,’’ says Michelle, an East Brunswick resident who just earned her degree from Ursinus College in international relations and Spanish. ’’Congressman Holt is in this campaign for all the right reasons. He’s not after power. He’s not after celebrity. He’s a really humble person who wants to help other people. And I want to help him.’’

The young woman is part of the building wave of dedicated volunteers who will spend this summer making sure Rush’s message gets to Democratic voters from Cape May to High Point.

’’I’ve got a terrific organization,’’ Rush told Bergen County Democrats the other day. He was talking about the professionals he has hired, sure, but he also was talking about devoted followers like Michelle Arrisueno.

Rush talks a lot about how his “solid and dedicated” supporters will make the difference. He has to talk about it a lot. Someone, often from the media, is always asking him how he can win despite the alleged celebrity power of Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

’’It’s not just bravado to say I’m going to win the primary and look forward to the general election,’’ Rush told a voter the other day in Hackensack. ’’Cory’s celebrity is not going to translate into votes. It’s just not the way this election is going to work. Whoever organizes best, wins.’’

The Big Names and Experts who say Important Things need to look at history. In 1998, running in a campaign that focused on the good things an embattled President Bill Clinton had done for America, Rush won the 12th Congressional District seat that had been GOP territory for as long as anyone could remember.

Republicans nationally thought Rush won because of the antics of the incumbent, Congressman Mike Pappas, who sang “Twinkle, twinkle little star” on the House floor as a homage to Clinton’s personal Inspector Javert, special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. The GOP was determined to get the seat back and ran Dick Zimmer, an attractive, intelligent, even moderate, former Congressman. Rush won despite Zimmer’s popularity and  the resources thrown against him. Despite the strong expectation he would lose.

’’I am used to being underestimated,’’ Rush said in Hackensack. “But there is no one in this race with more of a record of winning difficult races than Rush Holt. I’ve won and I’ve kept winning, with tough races all along the way. I am the one who is battle-tested.’’

He wins and he raises money—four times more money from small-dollar donors than any other Democrat in New Jersey’s House delegation.

’’So, if you have any questions about winnability,’’ he told the Bergen County audience, ’’rest assured that, if you’re there for me in August, I will be there to carry on the progressive fight of Frank Lautenberg.’’