Could Cory Booker Lose the Senate Race in New Jersey?

when they say vote wednesday they mean itJoe Sinnott/NJTVDemocrats outnumber Republicans
33 percent to 20 percent in registered voters (47 percent don’t
affiliate with either party; largely independents). Barack Obama
carried the state by more than 15 percent in 2008 and 18 percent in
2012. While Republican Chris Christie defeated the unpopular
incumbent Jon Corzine in the 2009 gubernatorial election, the last
time a Republican won a Senate race in the state was when Clifford
Case was re-elected for a fourth term in 1972. He was primaried in
1978 by the conservative Jeffrey Bell, who ended up losing to Bill
Bradley. There have been Republican governors since then, but no
Republicans elected to the Senate.

Nevertheless, a week and a half ago the Republican candidate for
the Senate race to fill the seat vacated by Frank Lautenberg’s
death, Steve Lonegan, sent out a campaign e-mail declaring that
“pundits both in New Jersey and across the country are
starting to concede that we can win this election,” given a
Quinnipiac poll that showed Cory Booker’s lead at 12 points, down
from twice that in the summer. A few days later, the Booker
campaign used an article about Lonegan
closing the gap against Booker
to declare that “[n]o one ever
said running a race against a tea party favorite would be easy.”
RCP average
has Booker up by 17.5 points.

Lonegan certainly has an uphill battle. The so-called
conventional wisdom suggests Lonegan might be “too conservative”
for the New Jersey electorate. Yet, when in 2012 incumbent Bob
Menendez defeatead Joe Kyrillos by nearly 20 percent.
 Kyrillos is few people’s idea of a conservative. Currently in
the state senate, he’s introduced a resolution urging airlines to
enact policies on peanuts.
No, seriously
. Lonegan polling at about where Kyrillos ended up
last year appears to contradict the conventional wisdom that only a
big government Republican, like Kyrillos or even Chris Christie,
can win in New Jersey.

Even the Hill picked up on Booker’s “fading star,”

that the newest polling

also suggests Lonegan’s attacks on Booker’s perceived
preoccupation with celebrity — Hollywood fundraisers have held two
events for him during the campaign — are taking their

“The one thing I do know has shrunk significantly is [Booker’s]
popularity rating. He has taken a hit. If that keeps going
unanswered, we would expect to see the margin shrink even more,”
[Monmouth University Polling Institute] Patrick Murray said.

Fifty-four percent of likely voters in the state view Booker
favorably in the Monmouth poll, a decline of 7 percentage points.
His unfavorability rating increased 13 points.

Booker has faced scrutiny over his business interest, which was
subsequently divested,  in a tech startup that appeared to be
going nowhere. He also endured negative reports about two homes he
owned in Newark, one of which has sat empty and in disarray with
little attention from the mayor.

Murray said Booker has suffered from being somewhat removed from
the campaign trail, bouncing around the nation to raise money, not
just for the special primary and general elections, but also the
2014 Senate election in the state.

Booker’s also received criticism for being unavailable to press.
His relative silence has allowed a number of negative reports to
take hold and feed into Lonegan’s narrative questioning Booker’s

This being an election in 2013, Booker, a profuse tweeter,
 has also embroiled himself in a rated PG-13
Twitter hullaballoo
over DMs with a vegan stripper.

The election will also be affected by its awkward scheduling.
The special election will be held Wednesday, October
16th, less than two weeks away but something I had to
Google even though I’m a New Jersey voter. After Frank Lautenberg
died, Chris Christie
opted not
to wait until 2014 to hold a special election, but
also not to hold it at the same time as his own election day in
November. Christie, who has
picked up
significant Democrat support in his re-election bid,
did not want to jeopardize that possible 2016 booster by having to
run on a ticket opposite Cory Booker. Obama’s people think Christie
would make a
fine candidate
. Officially, Christie said he favored the
awkward scheduling for democracy’s sake. Of course he did.

Rand Paul campaigned with Steve Lonegan
last month
, and Rick Perry earlier this week. More Reason on
Cory Booker here.
I talked to some of the New Jersey candidates before the primaries,
including Lonegan, about the NSA revelations,