Booker Has Huge Lead In First New Jersey Senate Poll
Quinnipiac University is out with the first poll of the New Jersey Senate race since Governor Christie set the date for a Special Election, and Cory Booker remains far ahead of the rest of the pack:
Newark Mayor Cory Booker starts the U.S. Senate race to fill the seat opened by the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg with a huge lead over his largely unknown primary opponents, according to a poll released this morning.
The Quinnipiac University survey of 858 New Jersey voters shows that 53 percent of self-described Democrats say they’ll vote for Booker, while 10 percent pick Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) and 9 percent back Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.).
The survey was completed Sunday night – just before Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) told Democrats she also plans to run in the special August 13 primary.
The poll also shows all three Democrats beating conservative activist Steve Lonegan, the only well-known Republican who has said he’s running. Booker leads Lonegan 54 percent to 27 percent, while Pallone beats him 39 percent to 29 percent and Holt keeps it to a narrower 36 percent to 31 percent.
“It’s Newark Mayor Cory Booker in a runaway in this first look at the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Frank Lautenberg,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
To some extent, of course, this early poll reflects the value of Booker’s name recognition:
The poll shows that everyone in the race except Booker suffers from low name recognition. While 57 percent of voters have a favorable view of Booker and 14 percent hold an unfavorable one, large majorities have never heard of the others. Even though Loengan has run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination office twice, in 2005 and 2009, 62 percent say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. For Holt, in the House since 1999, that number jumps to 67 percent and for Pallone 69 percent.
“Who are those other guys? The record shows that Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt are big in their districts, but, statewide, no one knows them,” Carroll said.
One factor that could diminish the effect of the candidates’ relative anonymity is that the primary will take place in the middle of the August vacation season, while the special general election is scheduled for October. Political experts say only the most committed voters will turn up to the polls – voters who are more familiar with the candidates.
That, quite obviously, would favor Booker. What this poll suggests, though, is that Booker’s opponents, both the Democrats running against him and his eventual Republican opponent Steve Lonegan, will have to find a way to simultaneously increase their own name recognition and take Booker down a peg or two. All of this during a time period when a lot of voters are unlikely to be paying a lot of attention to politics. That’s not going to be easy, and it may well turn out to be pretty much impossible.