- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election, some polls indicated that a couple of longtime New Jersey Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives may have been at risk for an upset.

In both the 2nd and 5th Districts, the Democratic challengers were running more sophisticated and expensive campaigns than hopefuls usually mount there. And in both cases, the incumbents said they were confident that they would withstand the challenges -though they dug deeper into their campaign coffers to do it.

Not only did Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Scott Garrett retain their seats, they did so by wider margins than two years ago.

That held true across the state. Republicans held onto all six New Jersey congressional seats they won in 2012 and did so by bigger victory margins as measured by percentage points.

Even in the 3rd District, where Democrats thought they had a realistic chance of gaining a seat as Republican Rep. Jon Runyan did not seek re-election, Republican Tom MacArthur not only defeated Democrat Aimee Belgard, but did so with a bigger percentage margin than Runyan had in his re-election last time.



Democrats also won six New Jersey districts. But according to preliminary data returns, they had closer margins than two years ago.

None of the vote counts are final, and two districts had enough precincts not reported by Wednesday afternoon that it was possible that the trend of improved GOP election performance would not ultimately hold everywhere in the state.

There are several possible reasons why Republicans did so well.

First, midterm elections, when the president is not on the ballot, attract a different group of voters than presidential years like 2012. Midterms voters, on average, are older and more likely to be Republican. There are also fewer voters in all. Generally, the president’s party loses House seats during midterms of his second term. In 2010, Obama’s first-term midterm, Republicans took over the House.

In New Jersey, Democrats did not lose any seats. The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is taking some solace that it minimized losses compared with past second-term midterms.

The nature of New Jersey two years ago also may have made it easier for Republicans to perform better this time: President Barack Obama and other Democrats did particularly well in 2012, when voting was right on the heels of Superstorm Sandy.

Also, Republican incumbents reacted to insurgent Democrats. William Hughes Jr. mounted a vigorous campaign against LoBiondo in southern New Jersey’s 2nd District and Roy Cho attracted attention in his run against Garrett in the state’s northernmost district, the 5th. In both cases, the Democrats, raised and spent far more than their parties’ candidates did two years ago.

“The Republicans spent more too to offset that,” said Patrick Murray, a pollster at Monmouth University who said he was not surprised by the way New Jersey races turned out Tuesday.

In campaign finance reports covering the period through Oct. 15 - before crucial last-minute spending - both Garrett and LoBiondo spent more than they did in all of their 2012 campaigns. Garrett spent more than three times as much.

Another campaign observer, Montclair State University political scientist Brigid Harrison, believes national anti-Obama sentiment helped New Jersey Republicans, too. “In general, this is a Republican year,” she said. “They’re at the crest of the wave.”

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