A national profile is definitely helping Newark Mayor Cory Booker in a hastily-called election in a state where nearly all politicians are unknown outside their own constituencies.  Today’s Monmouth University poll shows Booker with an early lead among potential voters in the August Democratic Primary and among likely voters in the October special election to fill the late Frank Lautenberg’s U.S. Senate seat.

Special Senate Election Demorat candidates (L-R) Sheila Oliver, Frank Pallone, Cory Booker & Rush Holt (all official portraits except Cory Booker/Getty Images)

In the U.S. Senate race, Booker has a clear advantage in the first few weeks of the contest. Among likely voters in October’s special election, he leads probable GOP nominee Steve Lonegan by a 53 percent to 37 percent margin. Former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan does better against the other Democratic contenders, although he still trails all three. This includes match-ups against Congressman Frank Pallone, 45 percent to 40 percent for Lonegan, Congressman Rush Holt, 44 percent to 41 percent, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, 44 percent to 42 percent.

Among potential voters in the August Democratic primary, Booker holds a commanding lead over his challengers, garnering 63 percent support, compared to 10 percent for Holt, 8 percent for Pallone, and 6 percent for Oliver. The poll did not ask Republican voters about their party’s primary match-up between Lonegan and health clinic founder Dr. Alieta Eck.

“Right now, Booker and Lonegan are the only two candidates in the race with significant statewide name recognition, which contributes to their strong positions in this early poll,” says Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “It would take a huge organizational turnout effort by any of the other candidates to overcome that advantage in the short time frame of this election."

The survey suggests that turnout for the November general election will be about 45 percent of registered voters. This is slightly lower than the 47 percent to 49 percent turnout levels New Jersey has seen in gubernatorial races over the past decade. The U.S. Senate race in October appears likely to result in even lower turnout, currently pegged at about 40 percent compared to a more typical 46 percent to 48 percent turnout.

The poll finds that Democrats are more likely to opt for voting in the October Senate race over November’s gubernatorial and legislative election. If forced to choose to vote in only one election, 73 percent of likely New Jersey voters say they would cast their ballot in the regular general election to 20 percent who prefer the special Senate election. Democrats (26 percent) are more likely than Republicans (14 percent) to choose the special election.

“Low turnout normally benefits a Republican, so the Democratic nominee will need a boost from supporters more interested in the Senate race to maintain the party’s normal edge in Garden State elections,” says Murray. “This could also translate to fewer Democratic voters in November, which will serve to pump up Gov. Christie’s already daunting lead.”

Among New Jersey voters likely to cast ballots in the November election, incumbent Chris Christie leads challenger Barbara Buono by 30 points – 61 percent to 31 percent.