Even with New York Senator Hillary Clinton at the Democratic Conference in Atlantic City this week on Friday, there was something larger overshadowing her appearance: The elephant in the room.
What happens in AC, does not usually stay in AC.
Only Congressman Bill Pascrell made mention of the “it” – the arrest this week of 11 elected officials for “taking bribes in exchange for help securing public contracts.”
Rep. Pascrell spoke only of the frustration that the legislative leadership felt; he made no mention of the possible guilt or innocence of those arrested. Several members of the state legislature who are up for re-election were arrested, and the governor has called for their resignation.
Rep. Pascrell was also the only speaker [other than the Governor] to tell the crowd that ‘we must concentrate on 2007 first, and not worry yet about 2008’.
As far as 2008 is concerned: No other presidential nominee showed his face, tacitly acknowledging that Senator Clinton is the choice of the majority of New Jersey’s active Democrats. Obama and Edwards had tables outside the main room, but the others had no presence at all. Even longtime friend of New Jersey, Senator Joe Biden was AWOL.
While former President Bill Clinton is the more engaging speaker of the two, Senator Clinton unmistakably showed the crowd why she is in the lead to be the 2008 nominee: She was powerful, focused, hit all the right points and is ‘ready to lead’, as the crowd hoisted big blue ‘Hillary for President” signs over their heads.
Senate President Dick Codey has endorsed Senator John Edwards, and he was absent from the Conference. Much of the rest of the New Jersey Democratic Leadership has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, making it almost a certainty that she will be the choice of New Jersey’s Democrats come February 5th, 2008.
However, Congressman Steve Rothman was the lone voice of support for Senator Obama, with a somewhat overly-long speech touching periodically on the Obama ‘likeability’ factor, Obama as an agent for change, and his legislative experience in the Illinois state legislature.
Each speaker, including Chairman Joe Cryan and Governor Corzine, tried to wow the crowd with the benefits for New Jersey if there were larger Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate.
Each Senator and Congressman present –Lautenberg, Menendez, Rothman, Andrews, Pallone, Pascrell –covered familiar territory --- their subject matter ranging from the Iraqi War, to Bush-bashing, to energy independence, to embryonic stem cell research. Lautenberg showed his usual sense of humor, as well as energy and vitality.
Best speaker of the night was the always-powerful Senator Bob Menendez, who excited the crowd with speech attacking the Republicans in general and Bush in particular.
However, the best speech of the night: The short and to the point speech of Rep. Rush Holt. Holt rushed in just before the Governor spoke, and was given the stage right after what was to be the final act of the evening. He said hello to the crowd, apologized for his lateness [stuck working in DC], and invited everyone to the dessert bash next door.
[Side note: In spite of his car accident this past spring, Governor Corzine looked healthy and very well. He bounded on to the stage in three quick steps, and looked as if he was ready for a new season of campaigning.]