New Jersey's 9th Congressional District plays host to another hot member-versus-member House primary on Tuesday.
Reps. Bill Pascrell and Steven Rothman are facing off for a seat merged by redistricting. The race between the two Democrats and former friends has been notably bad-tempered, but the specifics of what they've said matters less than what the two candidates are trying to accomplish.
Each is trying to replicate a tried-and-true strategy from previous merged-seat primaries: Drive up turnout in the home base, and drive down the opponent's percentage of support on the other side of the district.
Pascrell calls Rothman a disloyal Democrat because he chose to run against in this primary instead of against a Republican incumbent, Rep. Scott Garrett, in a neighboring district. Rothman also claims the "real Democrat" mantle by criticizing Pascrell on some social issues and touting his earlier support of same-sex marriage and President Obama — Rothman was the only member of the New Jersey delegation to endorse Obama in the 2008 presidential primary.
The open question is whose strategy will be more effective at peeling off voters from the other's territory. That has been the key factor in close member-versus-member contests earlier this cycle. In Illinois's 16th District, Rep. Adam Kinzinger defeated fellow Republican Rep. Don Manzullo by having a stronger showing in his old district than Manzullo had in his. The same was true in Pennsylvania's 12th District, where Rep. Mark Critz bested fellow Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire.