NJ Senate Race: Already Over

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

The New Jersey special primary election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) is scheduled for next Tuesday (Aug. 13), but according to Quinnipiac University’s final poll before the vote, the race is virtually over.

When Lautenberg died in early June and Gov. Chris Christie (R) scheduled the special election to choose a replacement, the early polling showed Newark Mayor Cory Booker with numbers approaching or breaking 50 percent of the Democratic vote with the other candidates, representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6), Rush Holt (D-NJ-12), and state House Speaker Sheila Oliver, barely breaking past 10 percent or registering only in single digits.

In the just-released Q-Poll (Aug. 1-5; 2,042 registered New Jersey voters; 388 likely Democratic primary voters) the results have barely changed. According to the data, Booker commands support from 54 percent of the polling sample versus just 17 percent for Rep. Pallone, 15 percent for Rep. Holt, and only 5 percent for Speaker Oliver. With less than a week to go, it’s hard to conceive of any scenario that does not result in a Booker victory.

Forecasting toward the special general to be held Oct. 16, the Democrat vs. Republican results are similar. With former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan enjoying a commanding lead in the special Republican primary, a projected Booker-Lonegan pairing appears to be no contest. According to the Q-Poll, Booker would lead such a campaign 54-29 percent.

Though this primary battle has lacked serious competition, there are still some interesting points to be made. First, as it relates to the Q-Poll, there does appear to be some potential irregularities in the polling sample. With 2,042 people being interviewed, it’s hard to see how only 388 and 267 of them identify themselves as either Democratic or Republican primary voters, respectively. One would expect at least the Democratic number to be much higher. Therefore, the Booker-Pallone-Holt-Oliver results are based upon a very small sample. The fact that the result shows such a landslide tells us that the accuracy factor is reliable, however, because there is so much distance between Mayor Booker and the remainder of the field.

Secondly, Booker appears to be defying normal political voting patterns. Typically, mayors perform very poorly in attempting to advance to statewide office, particularly those from a state’s largest city. Usually because voters not living in the largest city tend to have a negative opinion of the most populous region, they generally do not support the leader of that community for higher office. Booker is proving to be the exception to that rule. It’s even more extraordinary when one sees that Newark, in and of itself, is still not held in high regard as a municipality.

Third, though the polling sample may have less self-identified Democrats than it normally should, Booker’s support within his party appears solid as a rock. Looking at the Democratic segmentation when the mayor is pitted against Lonegan, we find that by a margin of 89-2 percent, the self-identified Democrats will vote for Booker in the general election. This tells us that there is little to no disruption in party loyalty even though there is a multi-Democratic candidate field, and enthusiasm among all of the respondents for their particular candidate is high.

It clearly appears that this 2013 Senate special election campaign is evolving into a coronation of Mayor Cory Booker. The voting begins next week.

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