Is Cory Booker a Sure Thing for U.S. Senate? [POLL/AUDIO]
As most predicted Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Steve Lonegan cruised to victory in yesterday's U.S. Senate primary.
This Oct. 16, the two will face off to fill the remaining 15 months of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg's term. If conventional wisdom proves correct, Booker is likely to be the one New Jersey voters send to Washington.
"There's no question that this is Cory Booker's race to lose," says Monmouth University poll director Patrick Murray. "His name recognition, his high favorable rating all combine to say that New Jersey is ready to send another Democrat to the Senate."
If Booker does win, it would be history making. New Jersey would have two minorities as U.S. Senators, the only state to do that. The Garden State's other current U.S. Senator is Bob Menendez.
"It really boils down to Cory Booker has appeal to a vast swath of New Jersey voters from cities to suburbs," explains Murray. "It's going to be hard to overcome that."
There are roughly 700,000 more registered Democrats in New Jersey than there are Republicans. That means the conservative Lonegan has a built-in disadvantage, but it goes deeper than that.
"This race would've been tough for any Republican to win even if it wasn't against someone with such high name recognition like Cory Booker, but another Republican may have had a better chance of making this a closer race" says Murray.
"The issue here is that New Jersey voters are more concerned with social issues when they vote for U.S. Senator than they are for Governor and Steve Lonegan has already staked out positions on social issues that are out of step with most New Jersey voters."
He could be out of step with Independent voters too and they tend to swing elections. Murray says Lonegan could turn off a lot of voters with his positions on abortion, gay marriage and gun control. The GOP candidate opposes all three.
"He (Lonegan) also says he's going to make this race a referendum on (President Barack) Obama," points out Murray. "Well, if it's a referendum on Obama, Obama won this state by 20 points just a few months ago so the referendum we would think would be pro-Obama. If Steve Lonegan wants to make this campaign an Obama referendum he's going to lose this race."