Vulnerable NJ Republican navigates messy Trump era politics

WESTFIELD, N.J. (AP) — This is not President Donald Trump’s dinner party.

Republican Rep. Leonard Lance, standing in the middle of Ferraro’s dimly lit restaurant dining room, says it’s not necessary to build a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico. He raises concerns about the White House’s promised tax overhaul. And he condemns the brash personalities that have come to define the GOP in the age of Trump.

“His personality and mine are vastly different. I’m comfortable with my personality,” Lance says as 19 men gathered for a private meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Association pick through their salads.

In Washington, Lance is often among the GOP’s forgotten. The five-term congressman doesn’t garner the attention or influence of some of his Republican colleagues. Even at the supermarket across the street from his local office, many people don’t know his name.

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But this gray-haired Republican in deep-blue New Jersey has become a crucial moderate vote in the fight to enact Trump’s agenda. And Lance’s ability to navigate the confused politics of the Trump era will help decide the House majority next year.

Few Republican congressmen faced voters in town halls during this past week’s recess, even as Congress pursues dramatic changes to the nation’s laws on immigration, health care and taxes. Even Lance, who has held five such town halls so far this year, avoided the larger unscripted venues where angry constituents have lashed out against Trump’s agenda in recent months.

They are still angry — at everyone in Washington, it seems.

In Michigan, die-hard Trump supporter Joe Guajardo questioned Republican Rep. Justin Amash after a recent town hall in Battle Creek.

“I’m wondering how he’s helping our president get things done,” Guajardo said. He added, “I don’t think President Trump’s getting a fair shake. And I don’t really know what Congress is doing to help him.”

In California, young immigrant students shouted down House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for working too closely with Trump on immigration. They chanted for half an hour until Pelosi and some Democratic colleagues gave up and walked out of a news conference last Monday.

“We don’t want them making any deals with Trump,” said one of the protesters, Laith Ocean, a 20-year-old transgender student originally from Nicaragua.

At the…

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