Supreme Court throws lifeline to Malinowski | Morane

On Wednesday night, Rep. Tom Malinowski took the stage at an outdoor rally in Maplewood and offered a warning.

New Jersey may have its own laws protecting the right to abortion, he said, but that right could soon be taken away. Because while most red states will ban abortion soon after the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, most blue states won’t.

And from the perspective of the pro-life movement, that means babies will continue to die on an industrial scale in America.

“They’re not going to stop halfway across the country,” Malinowski, D-7, told the receptive crowd. “They’re going to pass a national ban.”

Abortion won’t be the main issue in November, given concerns about inflation, crime and schools. But if the court’s decision moves the needle a few points in igniting the Democratic base, it could make a difference in suburban neighborhoods like Malinowski’s, which stretches from Westfield in Union County to the border. of Pennsylvania.

He’ll likely face former state senator Tom Kean Jr. in a 2020 campaign rematch. Malinowski won that race by a hair’s breadth, but he’s the underdog this time around. That’s mainly because he was the big loser in the redistricting, when fellow Democrats betrayed him by removing blue voters from his district to inflate their margins elsewhere. The changes shifted the district’s partisan balance, boosting Republicans by about six points, according to Cook Political Report, which currently ranks Kean as the slight favorite.

“Abortion could reduce this race,” says Dave Wasserman, an analyst for Cook. “It could energize a base that has seemed lethargic this year. That said, I don’t think abortion can trump inflation as the most important issue. We are not changing our rating.

At least for now. It may be wishful thinking, but I hope voters will force Kean to at least come out of his bunker and talk to them. He has held no town hall meetings, his campaign website has no information on the issues, and he will not speak to the press. As in 2020, he runs on the fumes of his beloved father’s name. His two campaigns against Malinowski were the most meaningless I’ve ever seen.

In the state Legislature as well, Kean was known to be as shy as a mouse. He fought no controversial fights, and when approached, his first words were invariably, “Can this be off the record?”

Malinowski is different, always ready to share his thoughts. “I held over 100 town hall meetings, in person and virtually,” he said. “Kean is the opposite. He never introduces himself and never talks to people. He will go on Fox News to talk about schools, but he will never go into schools, talk to teachers, hold an assembly with the kids, or invite parents to a town hall.

So if you want to know what Kean thinks about abortion, you need to check out the paper trail. Many people in New Jersey consider him pro-choice, but they may confuse him with his father.

Kean Jr.’s final vote in Trenton came in January, when he opposed a bill to protect abortion rights in New Jersey, a safeguard against the loss of Roe v. Wade. He repeatedly voted against funding Planned Parenthood during Chris Christie’s tenure as governor. And during his failed 2006 campaign for the US Senate, the National Right to Life Committee spent more than $30,000 on his behalf.

Kean is not the kind of moderate pro-choice Republican who tends to do well in New Jersey like his father or former Gov. Christie Whitman. At his home county’s convention, he shunned his longtime running mate, Sen. Jon Bramnick, a moderate Republican who was never Trump, by refusing to invite him to speak. When Kean Jr. announced his campaign, he chose to stand next to Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the leader of the far-right Republican caucus in the House.

After the court ruling, Kean’s campaign released a statement that didn’t say whether or not he supported the decision, just that he opposed third-trimester abortions, which New Jersey law allows. . It is extremely rare, invariably limited to heartbreaking cases where serious medical issues have come on late. This provision was not part of the abortion rights bill that Kean voted against in January.

It was Malinowski who hit the middle, pointing to his membership in the Centrist Problem Solvers Caucus, where he helped negotiate the $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill. He has been a prominent supporter of Ukraine, drafting the bill that calls for the seizure of frozen Russian funds to help fund reconstruction projects in Ukraine.

Malinowski’s hope rests, in part, on appealing to independents and moderate Republicans who he says set his district apart.

“The district is leaning Republican, but it’s not leaning Trump,” Malinowski says. “There are a lot of Republicans here who don’t like chaos and conflict and culture wars, who believe Biden won the election and who think Putin is a bad guy and Zelensky is a good guy. I see more Ukrainian flags than Trump flags.

It’s a tough fight for Malinowski, but the Roe vs. Wade decision gives him some breathing room. That was evident at Maplewood on Wednesday, which was a joint appearance with Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11e.

“We’re going to turn this into a win,” Sherrill said of the Roe v. Wade. “It reminded us why what we are fighting for in this country is so important… This is the first time in my life that I feel like we are not making progress on civil rights.”

The crowd ignited. “There will be bra burns!” Sheena Collum, the mayor of South Orange, promised.

So far, pro-life voters seemed more determined. A 2020 Gallup poll found that 30% of pro-life voters said abortion is a “threshold issue,” while only 19% of pro-choice voters did.

The question is whether the Supreme Court just changed that math, giving pro-choice voters a new reason to fight. Malinowski’s fate may hinge on the answer.

After: Columns by Tom Moran

Tom Moran can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. To find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

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