By Paul Ingrassia
On Saturday, the America First Republicans of New Jersey hosted a ballot access and volunteer event in Bergen County, which attracted well over 250 attendees from the grassroots and several notable Trump World speakers. The event was spearheaded by Mike Crispi, a talk show host and former congressional candidate for NJ-04. Crispi leads a team that includes lawyer, Giancarlo Ghione; Montclair GOP Chairman, Michael Byrne; businessman, Anthony Somma; and campaign operative, Michael Casey.
The goal of the event was twofold: mobilize the grassroots of Bergen County on behalf of President Trump’s 2024 campaign, and help New Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who the 45th President recently tapped to be his NJ campaign chairman, to ensure President Trump has enough petitions to qualify for ballot access. Though he could not be there in person, Van Drew attended the event virtually via Zoom and spoke for about ten minutes, where he conveyed his gratitude to Crispi’s group and highlighted the importance of grassroots efforts.
“We had more Republicans at our inaugural rally than Nikki Haley has ever had at any event,” said Crispi, co-chairman of the America First Republicans of New Jersey. “The Republican Party is an America First party and we’re never going back to the globalist mentality of the uniparty.”
Unlike neighboring New York, New Jersey’s election rules require that all candidates, even someone with President Trump’s national profile, still meet several complex, state-specific filing requirements to qualify for the ballot. It might seem strange to the average person that someone with President Trump’s name and pedigree would need to jump through hoops to qualify for the state ballot. But they should look no further than New Hampshire, where similar rules are in place that kept Joe Biden off the ballot in that state’s Democratic primary, forcing him to be a write-in candidate as a result.
Crispi laid out an ambitious goal for his organization.
“There is an active lawsuit against President Trump in New Jersey attempting to bar him from this process. We fully intend to set the all-time petition signature record for a Presidential election to send a message to the entire state that President Trump will not only stay on the ballot, but he cannot be denied and he will win this state in November.”
Crispi also said that his group is planning similar events already for Sussex County, Morris County, Mercer County, Somerset County, Ocean County, Essex County, and Gloucester County, with more to be added in March.
Event organizer Michael Casey elaborated Crispi’s grassroots vision, stating that the volunteers they gather with prove useful not just for collecting signatures, but ultimately to help form a coalition that will help flip New Jersey red: “These rallies will not only give President Trump a momentous number of signatures to file with, but they will also help us assemble a grassroots army that will work with us to flip New Jersey red and re-elect president Trump for 4 more years this November!”
In the past, President Trump has entertained the idea of holding rallies in states considered deep-blue strongholds, such as New Jersey and New York. While no Republican has won either state outright in a presidential campaign in decades, President Trump made serious inroads in both states in 2016 and 2020 – where he resided for decades and, in New Jersey’s case, still remains a seasonal resident during the summer months.
Additionally, recent gubernatorial races in both New Jersey and New York have been remarkably close. In 2021, the Republican Jack Ciattarelli came within 3 points of defeating current Governor Phil Murphy. In 2022, Lee Zeldin had a similarly strong performance – placing only 6.4 points behind Governor Kathy Hochul.
Donald Trump figures to be a far more popular candidate than either Ciattarelli or Zeldin among the grassroots of both states, who are lockstep with MAGA. And so, the idea that he might pick off one or both in November’s general election is certainly not out of the question.
“New Jersey is President Trump’s second home and New Jersey is going to vote for President Trump in 2024,” Crispi said. “The Biden Presidency is an economic and cultural disaster that threatens the stability of our country and the Western world. President Trump is the only one who can right the ship as fast as we need.”
Paul Ingrassia, a writer from neighboring New York, who was featured as one of the keynote speakers of the event, said that “Despite what you hear in the news, regular New Yorkers are passionately pro-Trump. Long Island and the suburbs are the epicenter of the MAGA movement. The Democrats are bad, but it’s the corrupt Republican establishment in both New York and New Jersey that operate like a roadblock, preventing more MAGA candidates from running statewide and registering more voters that could make these two states more competitive than they already are.”
Other keynote speakers included President Trump’s longtime doctor and friend, Stephen Soloway; Fox News contributor, Jason Meister; radio host Kevin McCullough; and Assemblyman Robert Auth.
Giancarlo Ghione, an event organizer, summed up the day this way: “Despite Nikki Haley supporters’ attempts at shutting this event down, it was a massive success. Everyone enjoyed themselves and President Trump is now closer to appearing on the ballot thanks to the efforts of these patriots.”
After Bergen County, the America First Republicans of New Jersey plan to barnstorm across the rest of the state to capitalize on their momentum and make the case for President Trump irrefutable to any state party holdouts. They hope to set a nationwide model for other blue or swing states, now considered longshots for President Trump, across the country.
“We hope President Trump recognizes this groundswell of support and feels the momentum of New Jersey being in play,” Crispi said. “We extend an invitation to his campaign to host a rally here to put New Jersey over the edge and flip red for the 2024 general election.”
Paul Ingrassia is a Constitutional Scholar; a two-time Claremont Fellow, and is on the Board of Advisors of the New York Young Republican Club and the Italian American Civil Rights League. He writes a widely read Substack that is regularly posted on Truth Social by President Trump. Follow him on X @PaulIngrassia, Substack, Truth Social, Instagram, and Rumble.