RACE OF THE DAY: New Jersey-12

New Jersey's 12th district boundaries were redrawn in 2002 to include parts of Trenton, a Democratic stronghold, but now even this New Jersey district isn't safe for Democrats.

The redistricting improved the winning percentages for Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), who has represented the area since 1998. But a tough national environment is putting the seat in play.

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Holt, the son of former West Virginia Sen. Rush Holt Sr., is facing a stiff challenge from Republican Scott Sipprelle. The wealthy investor is running as an outsider candidate — not a "career politician" — which has been a successful strategy in an anti-incumbent year. After years of facing nominal opposition, Holt is clearly taking him seriously.

The Democrat's first TV ad tried to paint Sipprelle as an out-of-touch advocate for Wall Street who is against equal pay for women.

Sipprelle released a radio ad in response that started with the line, "Did you see this video on YouTube? Rush Holt says government spending makes us richer." There's clearly no love lost between the two men.

"I started from the bottom and worked my way to success through personal sacrifice, toil and dedication, while Mr. Holt has spent his entire professional life in the sheltered confines of a college campus ivory tower or roaming the halls of Congress," Sipprelle said in a statement responding to Holt's first TV ad.

Sipprelle's advertising has focused mainly on issues, like his opposition to healthcare reform, but he's also gotten help from outside groups critical of Holt.

In August, a pro-Israel group criticized Holt for signing a letter "criticizing Israel for defending itself against the terrorist group Hamas."

A spokesman for Holt called the ad by the Emergency Committee for Israel, which is run by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, "blatant lies." But it didn't help that earlier in August Holt had attended the White House Iftar dinner where President Obama made his controversial remarks about the mosque planned near Ground Zero in New York City.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is also helping Sipprelle. He's set to appear at a rally with him on Sept. 24.

Meanwhile, Holt's gotten some help from the national party. The Democratic National Committee bought ads in his district in the spring to defend his healthcare vote.

But since Labor Day, Holt has stayed on offense. In a Trenton press conference last week, he criticized Sipprelle for suggesting a reduction in unemployment benefits. Sipprelle responded by saying his idea would only apply to extensions of benefits, not first-time applicants.

"[Holt] has been not only taking the statements out of context, but distorting and, in fact, fabricating statements," the Republican added.

The two meet in their first public debate on Oct. 14 at Rider University.