Politics

On the Campaign Trail with Jeff Bell

Republican upstart hopes to ride economic plan and anti-incumbent sentiment into the Senate

Jeff Bell uses a bullhorn to address a gathering in Cherry Hill, N.J / AP

Voter discontent and anti-incumbency sentiment will be factors in the race between Republican Jeff Bell and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) in November, which is surprisingly tight despite the incumbent Democrat’s national popularity.

Bell has stepped up his campaigning and continued to push his economic agenda, which he believes will restore prosperity to the middle class, revive the economy, help small businesses, and create jobs. He has also addressed the threat of Islamic terrorism on the campaign trail.

Speaking at a GOP meeting in Lakewood days before President Barack Obama’s Oval Office speech on the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS), Bell spoke of President Ronald Reagan and cited the stark difference between Reagan and Obama.

Reagan "believed in our values," Bell said. "He was loyal to our allies and other countries knew that."

"The only thing we should be thinking about is how do we kill the killers before they come here," Bell said. "Christians, Jews and minorities are being eradicated," he said, and Obama’s administration is "anti-Israel" and has showed "passivity in the Middle East."

Bell then turned to his economic plan, which calls for a return to a gold-backed dollar. It would be the first time in 43 years the greenback was backed by gold.

Bell blasted the Federal Reserve’s zero-interest rate policy, saying it is hurting savers and small businesses. He said this policy has resulted in a stagnant economy, a jobless recovery, and is "sinking the economy."

"People all around New Jersey realize this is not working," Bell said. He said Booker is in "lockstep with Obama," and has voted for all Obama’s policies. He indicated this election will be a "referendum on the status quo."

At a gathering of real estate executives in New Brunswick, Bell stated emphatically the "government’s misguided policies are sinking the economy."

He said the Federal Reserve’s policy "suppresses interest rates" which in turn is crushing most Americans who want to save. It is also resulting in the inability to keep up with price increases.

The free market, not the Federal Reserve, should dictate interest rates, according to Bell. "The price of money should be just like the price of other commodities, determined by the free market." He called for a return to a "sane" monetary policy.

"Our monetary system has the wheels fully off," Bell warned. "This is unsustainable … taking on increased debt while holding down interest rates."

Bell explained that the Fed’s policy is not only "robbing the saving of most Americans," but has also become a "tremendous burden on small businesses." Those businesses rely on lines of credit to expand. Small businesses, he said, will hire new employees and thereby become "the greatest net job creator in this country when the economy is healthy."

"When you put the interest rates at zero or a tiny bit above zero, all other rates must adjust," said Bell. "Small banks can’t make money the way the big banks can. Community banks are either being acquired by big banks, which removes the local element from lending, or they are going out of business. We are crushing the smaller people, the people who rely on savings and CDs, and small businesses."

A recent poll found the Booker vs. Bell race is worth watching, indicating anti-incumbency sentiment is prevalent in the Garden State. Though Booker was up by 13 points, over a quarter of voters polled said they are undecided. Only 36 percent of New Jersey voters approve of Obama—which could bode well for Bell.

"Although Jeff Bell is not a political newcomer to the state, his absence from politics for decades has left him a relative unknown among this generation of voters. The fact that he trails an incumbent senator with rock star appeal by a smaller margin than expected suggests anti-incumbency is operative in this election," said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind, in a release.

"Add to this the high percentage of undecideds, and it’s clear that even someone with the appeal of Senator Booker is up against tough but still navigable anti-incumbency winds," Jenkins said.

Bell said he believes voters are "very receptive" to his economic plan. "I know if I can get the message out" New Jersey voters are "unlikely to vote for the status quo."

Bell pointed out that Booker is "likable," but "having star quality doesn’t guarantee a win."

Some well-known names have recently endorsed Bell. Former Secretary of State and Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III endorsed Bell last week, and said in a statement, "Jeff Bell was a key man in getting Ronald Reagan’s successful economic policies off the ground and now his advocacy for a dollar as good as gold is what’s needed in the U.S. Senate. "

Last week Bell joined Mitt Romney at Governor Chris Christie’s fundraiser birthday party, and this week Christie will be holding a fundraiser for Bell.