Booker has not made a public appearance in New Jersey since September 15
Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Steve Lonegan has gained significant ground over the last two weeks in his quest to replace the late Frank Lautenberg in Washington, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released this morning.
Democratic nominee, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, leads Lonegan among likely voters by 12 points,, 53%-41%, with three weeks to go before the October 16 special election.
Booker had a 35% lead over Lonegan in an August 7 poll of registered voters.
In a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll two weeks ago of likely voters, Booker was leading Lonegan by 35%.
While it is scientifically inaccurate to compare polls between registered voters and likely voters and differing methodologies make different pollsters’ result problematic to compare, there can be little doubt that the U.S. Senate race is now closer than anyone other than Lonegan and his chief strategist Rick Shaftan ever expected it would be.
At Lonegan’s press conference in Newark last week that was disrupted by Booker supporters, Shaftan scoffed at the Rutgers-Eagleton results. “If we were really down by 35%, they wouldn’t be doing this,” Shaftan said of the hecklers who made Lonegan’s remarks impossible to hear. Lonegan and Newark residents who support him claimed that the hecklers who disrupted the press conference were paid by the Booker campaign, a claim the protestors and Booker’s campaign manager denied. Shaftan told SaveJersey last week that Lonegan was within single digits of Booker.
In order to continue to close the gap between Booker, and if he has a hope to win the October 16 election, Lonegan needs to reach more likely voters. In this morning’s Quinnipiac poll, 43% of the respondents, including 26% of Republicans and 39% of Independents, said they did not know enough about him to form an opinion.
Of those who do have an opinion about Lonegan, 62% look upon him favorably. (MMM calculated this statistic from Quinnipiac’s reported favorability numbers for Lonegan, Quinnipiac did not report it that way.)
One of Lonegan’s other challenges is to win back the small minority of Republicans, both moderates and conservatives who don’t like him. 11% of Republican likely voters told Quinnipiac they planned to vote for Booker. 3% of Republicans either didn’t know who they would vote for or refused to answer.
Lonegan will appear at the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University this evening, an event that is free and open to the public.
The Booker campaign has four rallies in New Jersey today, including one featuring Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. But Booker himself won’t attend any of them. The Newark Mayor, who has not made a public appearance in New Jersey since September 15, has yet to return from his long weekend in California where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck held a fundraiser for him last night.