FiveThirtyEight Slightly Favors Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey’s Second Congressional District House Race

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.J. — The 2020 general election will take place in exactly one week, and one of the nation’s most tightly-contested House races is taking place in New Jersey’s Second Congressional District.

At this time, FiveThirtyEight — a statistics website that aggregates data from polls across the country — is calling the race between Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2) and Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy a toss-up. FiveThirtyEight’s “Deluxe model,” which considers expert analysis on top of polling data, fundraising, and past voting patterns, slightly favored Van Drew by a 54-46 margin at approximately 2 p.m. Monday. At the time of publication (8 a.m. on Tuesday), Van Drew’s lead was 52-48, but these projections can change frequently.

FiveThirtyEight also runs a “Lite” model of projections that is solely based on polling data. The Lite model favors Kennedy by a 62-38 margin at this time.

The website also uses a “Classic” model, which considers polling data, fundraising totals, and past voting patterns, among other data. At approximately 2 p.m. on Monday, which is when the following screenshot was taken, Van Drew’s lead in the Classic model is by the finest of margins. However, the forecast changed to an even 50-50 split at around 11:45 p.m. Monday, which is where it sits at the time of publication.

In 2018, New Jersey’s Second Congressional District was considered to be solidly-Democrat, but Van Drew has almost single-handedly shaken up the district’s political landscape. The incumbent switched his affiliation to the Republican party in late 2019, but a poll from Monmouth University released in early October found that the majority (51%) of a 588-voter sample isn’t bothered at all by his switch. Thirty-five percent of those polled said that Van Drew’s switch bothered them “a lot,” and an additional 12% said it bothered them “a little.”

Monmouth’s poll found that the challenger holds a five-point (49-44) lead over Van Drew in the race. According to FiveThirtyEight, that poll is the most recent reputable poll conducted and released for Kennedy and Van Drew’s race in this election cycle. Of the eight polls listed by FiveThirtyEight, Van Drew tops Kennedy in just two of them. The Philadelphia Inquirer also recently endorsed Kennedy for the House seat.

Although polling data and past voting patterns give Van Drew a bleak outlook, the Republican incumbent’s chances of winning could be helped by moderate Democrats who stand by the candidate they voted for two years ago. Van Drew’s party change is undoubtedly a major storyline, but he doesn’t seem to think it’ll have too much of an impact on the outcome of next week’s election.

“I’ve had a tremendous amount of support. Our own internal polls don’t show [Monmouth’s findings] at all, which is really weird how different it is,” Van Drew said at a debate with Kennedy on October 8. “People voted for me because I’m Jeff Van Drew. My whole career has been based upon the fact that I wasn’t so concerned about Republicans and Democrats. I was concerned about standing up for and fighting for South Jersey — for believing in the people of South Jersey who often don’t get their fair share. I think people know who I am, what I stand for, and they’ll vote for or against me on that basis.”

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