(This was a weird fight. - promoted by Matt Stoller)
New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews's strategy to defeat incumbent US Senator Frank Lautenberg in the Democratic primary is simple. First, he must carry carry massive pluralities in South Jersey, where he has both machine support and very high popularity. Second, he must garner endorsements, and thus favorable ballot position, from at least two of the large, Democratic-voting counties in North Jersey: Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Middlesex and Union.
When he publicly announced his intention to run for Senate yesterday, Andrews figured he had at least one of these endorsements, namely Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero, in the bag. But before Ferriero could announce his support for Andrews, Bergen County Congressman Steven Rothman (NJ-09) answered Ferriero's small bet on Andrews with a big raise. Rothman, who has made no secret of his own desire to eventually sit in Lautenberg's Senate seat, reportedly threatened to run for re-election to his own House seat off of the county line and alongside Lautenberg and a full slate of County Democratic Committee candidates recruited by progressive State Senator Loretta Weinberg.
Rothman's aggressive move presents Ferriero with a dilemma. Ferriero can cautiously preserve his political power and patronage machine by folding to Rothman. By giving his line to Lautenberg and Rothman, Ferriero would raise a very high hurdle in front of any challengers seeking to unseat his county committee members and freeholders. However, should Ferriero call Rothman's raise, he will provoke a nine-week civil war in the Bergen County party that he may not survive.
Needless to say, Ferriero did not follow through with an Andrews endorsement on Tuesday, and this afternoon, sources close to the Bergen boss are telling New Jersey media that Ferriero will endorse Lautenberg. As of Wednesday afternoon, none of Andrews's other promised North Jersey endorsements have panned out. While Andrews hasn't decided whether or not to challenge Lautenberg yet, Rothman's deftly timed threat has made an Andrews run a lot less likely than it was just 24 hours ago.
You can read more about this story and the New Jersey US Senate race at Blue Jersey.