The road to the Heldrich Hotel

NEW BRUNSWICK – The road to the Heldrich Hotel led through a brackish, bait and tackle Monmouth County night, heavy on stop signs and short on functioning stop lights.

Hurricane Sandy was here a week ago and it shows.

When people opened their mouths to speak you heard the roar of nearby generators drowning out human speech.

Outside the Holmdel Municipal Building, at Republican Party ground zero, a woman left the storm-consolidated polling place and said she didn’t feel good about Mitt Romney’s chances.

This is Romney country, Holmdel, or so it would appear.

“Did you hear about what they’re doing over there in Philadelphia?” the woman, wide-eyed, asked PolitickerNJ.com.

“What’s going on over there?”

“The Black Panthers, the way they’re intimidating people – you didn’t hear that?”

“I didn’t.”

The grinding sound of the massive generator in front of the building was becoming more pronounced but the woman could be heard to say, “You can’t criticize Obama because it’s interpreted as racism. I don’t have a problem voting for someone who’s black. I’d back Condoleeza Rice for president, and she’s black.”

PolitickerNJ.com kept moving through the darkness, past the darkened hollows of county parks and deadzone gas stations and diners that looked gutted and up to Highway 35, better lit than most places, nosing the old beat up sedan toward New Brunswick.

There was palpable irony in U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) selection of the infamous Heldrich as the champagne slide down for Dems, as it was the back chamber setting where Democrats won control of the Legislature, and then lost the advantage to the GOP during last year’s congressional redistricting.

The troughs of food here reaffirmed the Heldrich as the Democrats’ bunker of celebration.

CNN was on.

The news network just projected victory here in the state for President Barack Obama.

"This meeting is entirely off the record. Until somebody leaks it."
—Michael Kempner, addressing a roomful of Democratic powerbrokers organizng for Hillary Clinton