Republican Steve Lonegan supported the federal government shutdown until he decided — after the fact, mind you — it cost him his New Jersey Senate race against Cory Booker.
In reality, Booker's win was nearly a sure thing. He had a commanding lead as soon as the polls started measuring who might replace former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June, and at no point did Lonegan shrink the gap enough to get close before last week's election day. Booker won with 55 percent of the vote.
Lonegan thinks he could have beat Booker, if it wasn't for that darn government shutdown. "There is no doubt in my mind or in the minds of any of my campaign staff that the shutdown cost me the election," Lonegan told the New Jersey Star-Ledger on Monday. He almost regrets wasting his time with the campaign in the first place. "If I had known it was going to happen and that it was going to be handled so badly in Washington, I wouldn't have run for senate."
Just a few weeks ago, the conservative Lonegan was a big shutdown fan. Lonegan said he was "proud" the Tea Party caucus was "standing up to this tyrant," on the campaign trail. Losing gives the loser the benefit of hindsight, and Lonegan has seen a, if not the, light.
The biggest reason the shutdown was bad for Republicans, according to Lonegan, is because he lost the special election to Booker. "Republicans had a chance to win a U.S. Senate seat and in the process send a powerful message to Obama and instead they shut down government with no message and no game plan," he told the Star-Ledger. "I was probably the single biggest casualty of their mistake."
A Lonegan win would have needed some help from a salacious scandal, perhaps tying the former Newark mayor to a stripper with more than a few innocent Twitter messages, to come true. Instead Lonegan's aide insinuated Booker was "gay" for not liking the stripper more.
But Lonegan thinks he was on a roll in the polls until Republicans blundered the shutdown, and he does have something resembling a point. Some polls released late in the race showed Lonegan had closed the gap ever so slightly between himself and Booker in the last month or two of the race, usually by about 3 points at a time. But at no point did Booker ever surrender a sub-10 point lead, so to think Lonegan ever really had a shot at winning is almost laughable.