50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 3. New Jersey

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. Previous posts can be found here

3. New Jersey

Capital: Trenton

Nickname: The Garden State

Motto: Liberty and Prosperity

About the State

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the USA, its more than 8.8 million residents (11th most in the nation) fit into the fourth smallest area.  During the Jurassic Period – approximately 180 million years ago – New Jersey was bordered by Northern Africa and the coming together of the two continents resulted in the Appalachian Mountains.  Comparatively recently, the land was home to the Lenni-Lenape tribe of Native Americans, before being colonised by the Dutch and the English in the 17th century.  During the War of Independence in the 18th Century, New Jersey was known as the “crossroads of the Revolution”, due to the number of battles that took place there.  The Garden State was the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights, but one of the last in the North to abolish slavery, and did not cast its Electoral College Votes for President Lincoln in either 1860 or 1864.

The industrial revolution helped many of New Jersey’s cities grow, as its economy moved away from agriculture and towards iron mining and manufacturing.  Thomas Edison did much of his research in the state and Christie Street in Menlo Park, Northern NJ, was the first thoroughfare in the United States to have street lights.  The state was at the epicenter of naval construction during the two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century, while Atlantic City prospered during the prohibition era with bootleggers such as Enoch “Nucky” Johnson (the real life person that Boardwalk Empire’s Nucky Thompson is based on) providing a haven for those who wanted to gamble and drink alcohol.

Many banks have set up offices across the water from Manhattan in Jersey City, and the state is a transportation hub both for commuters and delivery services – FedEx and UPS have their regional hubs there.  There is still some agricultural industry in New Jersey and it ranks in the top 5 in the production of blueberries, cranberries, spinach and peaches.  Economically, the state ranks second in average income per capita, but Governor Chris Christie’s tax and spending cuts since his election in 2010, have resulted in many cities having to cut vital services.  An example of this was in the state capital, Trenton, which was forced to reduce the number of police officers by a third in September 2011 – laying off 103 people – and could no longer afford to investigate thefts, nor maintain its Domestic Violence Unit.  Such reductions have unsurprisingly resulted in rising crime rates.  While Christie blames the cost of labor and public sector unions for the cuts, had he not vetoed a raise in tax rates levied on millionaires that the state legislature passed in 2010, there would have been more revenue to maintain police numbers.

Three “Big Four” sports franchises have their homes in New Jersey, but only one affiliates itself with the state.  The New Jersey Devils (NHL) are based at the Prudential Center in Newark, while the New York Jets and New York Giants (NFL) play their home games at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  The 22nd and 24th President of the United States, Grover Cleveland – the only man to serve non-consecutive terms – was born in New Jersey; and Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Montreal Royals in Jersey City against the Giants, marking the first time an African-American baseball player competed in the Minor Leagues.

2012 Election

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 14

2008 Result: Obama 56.8% McCain 42.1%

Latest Poll: Obama +14%

New Jersey was won by the Republican Presidential candidate every election from 1968 to 1988, but they have failed to win the state since then.  President Obama won New Jersey comfortably in 2008 and it is highly likely he will do so again in 2012.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate seat up for grabs in Jersey, with the incumbent Democrat, Bob Mendez facing Republican, Joe Kyrillos.   Mendez has a comfortable lead in the polls and should secure a second full-term, having been appointed in 2006 prior to his win in the election later that year.

Like Pennsylvania, New Jersey loses one of its Representatives (and thus, one Electoral College Vote) after the reapportionment from the 2010 census.  Now the state will have 12 House members – the current makeup is seven Democrats and six Republicans, with one of the blue seats being the district that will no longer exist.

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