The Harris Nomination

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Although Governor Christie is famous for his communications skills, his press room is often less effective. Such is particularly the case with the nomination of Bruce Harris as Associate Judge of the Supreme Court. The press releases have been tepid, unclear, uninspiring, and ineffective. However, his legislative team will continue its efforts today to get two Democrats to support Harris.

Going back to last Thursday, under  the headline of "Supremely Qualified" the press office published a lengthy chart comparing features of current court members with Bruce Harris, which amidst the welter of data left unclear which factors made Harris particularly qualified. The other Thursday press release was based on the Record's editorial "Bruce Harris Deserves A Fair Hearing" - a reasonable position but not an endorsement. Friday's release was headlined "What They're Saying: Harris Supremely Qualified," but strangely enough there was only one sentence referencing Mr. Harris, with the remainder dealing with Atlantic City issues.

On Tuesday this week under the banner of "Supremely Qualified: New Jerseyans Continue To Support Bruce Harris," Christie's press office renewed its PR offensive. It published endorsements from two partners at Riker, Danzig, a law firm at which both Harris and current Supreme Court Justice Patterson were formerly employed, as well as a reprint of  the Gloucester County Times endorsement. Wednesday's press release leads off with a big headline: "Obama Endorses Bruce Harris" followed by a much smaller headline,"Okay, not really." The writer quotes comments from President Obama on what is needed in a Supreme Court Justice. Then the writer blithely assures us "Harris seems to be the ideal candidate." (This release is worth reading. You will probably catch Republican Senators using items in it as talking points.)  

So the week consisted of a chart with an unclear purpose, the Record's non-endorsement of Harris, a release with only one sentence on Harris, two endorsements from highly connected lawyers, support from the Gloucester County Times, and a specious release with a headline implying President Obama supports Harris. Not a lot of powder in that musket.

The weak PR effort is probably in sharp contrast with much more aggressive efforts today on the part of Christie's legislative team to win over two Democrats. The committee consists of 13 members - 8 Democrats and five Republicans. The committee members are: Nicolas Scutari (D-22), Chair; Nia Gill, (D-34) Vice-Chair; Christopher Bateman (R-16); Gerald Cardinale (R-39); Michael Doherty (R-23); Joseph Kyrillos (R-13); Raymond Lesniak (D-20); Kevin O'Toole (R-40); Nellie Pou (D35); Paul Sarlo (D-36);  Bob Smith (D-17); Brian Stack (D-33); Loretta Weinberg (D-37).

It is likely that all five Republicans will vote for Harris, so they need two votes from Democrats for the nomination to proceed to the Senate for a full vote. The Committee vote on Phillip Kwon was seven Democrats against the nomination with one Democrat (sometimes considered a DINO) Brian Stack and all Republicans in favor. Even if Stack again votes with the Republicans, they still need one more Democratic vote for the nomination to proceed on to the full Senate. Given the skepticism toward Harris, Christie's attack against Chair Scutari, and Lesniak's stated opposition yesterday, Bruce Harris will have to give an incredible performance to convince people like Gill and Weinberg that his recusal on marriage equality is not a hindrance and that he indeed is "supremely qualified." After a weak PR performance, we will see if Christie's legislative team will do any better. Perhaps the problem is not only poor PR but the fact that fate does not favor Harris.

This is an open thread...

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