Booker’s lead slides amid scandals and inattention to New Jersey

Lonegan closing gap on Booker

When New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg died earlier this year, there were few people who believed the Republicans had a chance of picking up the seat but former Bogota, N.J. Mayor Steve Lonegan has closed ground on Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who has spent a significant portion of his time campaigning out of state in places like California while Garden State voters have begun to look past the pre-election hype.

STATE — Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s lead in New Jersey’s special election for Senate has dropped down to 12 points, according to a recent Quinnipiac University survey conducted as voters learned several disturbing facts about the celebrity candidate.

Booker has long been favored to win the Oct. 16 election in this Democratic-leaning state and Quinnipiac pollsters say he still maintained a 53 percent to 41 percent lead over Republican Steve Lonegan, with five percent undecided.

Most polling firms had Booker ahead by at least twice as much in previous surveys, so the latest numbers indicate a severe decline in popular support for the political celebrity, whose lackluster performance in elected office far exceeds his carefully crafted reputation and campaign claims.

Booker’s lead over Lonegan is now smaller than President Barack Obama’s 17-point margin of victory in the state last year and as voters tune in to the election, now less than three weeks away, a continued drop is possible.

“Today’s results could be driven by the bad news about Newark crime, plus the publicity about Booker’s business ventures,” Quinnipiac polling director Maurice Carroll said. “But if it’s not a blow-out, it still looks like a comfortable lead for Booker. New Jersey is a blue state and it hasn’t elected a Republican senator — let alone a conservative one — since Sen. Clifford Case in 1972.”

Booker remains far more well-known than Lonegan, with 53 percent holding a favorable opinion of him and 43 percent still not knowing enough about Lonegan to form an opinion.

Booker leads among women by a 60 percent to 34 percent margin, while men split their vote, 48 percent for Lonegan and 46 percent for Booker.

The survey of 948 likely voters was conducted Sept. 19-22 and had a 3.2-point margin of error.

Booker spent a week out of state raising money at several events, including a star-studded gala in Hollywood, while New Jersey voters learned that during his tenure as mayor, he had accepted $700,000 in payments from his former law firm, which received $2 million in contracts from city agencies in the same period.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel cancelled an appearance on Booker’s behalf in Jersey City because of a mass shooting in the Windy City, while the Newark Mayor continued an out-of-state campaign tour despite a spate of murders in his hometown.

Political insiders say Booker fell out of favor with President Obama and US Senator Bob Menendez for his tepid response to the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war.

Many New Jersey Democrats fault Booker for appearing to care only about himself, instead of using his recognition and status to boost the prospects of the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Barbara Buono.

Lonegan has hammered away of Booker’s record on crime and taxes in the state’s largest city, while newspapers have criticized him for failing to clear up questions of corruption in his administration.

Given the significant impact of turnout on the special election results, Booker’s dwindling support could help Lonegan rally resources to advance his prospects and possibly score a major upset.


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