The Washington Post

For Cory Booker, the Senate is the ticket

We're still waiting to hear whether Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) will challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) next year. But don't hold your breath.

If polling is any indication, Booker would be much, much wiser to focus his sights on the state's 2014 Senate race.


Eric Schmidt, left, executive chairman of Google, with Newark Mayor Cory Booker. (David Paul Morris/BLOOMBERG)

Polling early this week showed Christie with approval ratings peaking over 70 percent after Hurricane Sandy, and one showed him leading Booker by 18 points in a potential 2013 matchup.

But as discouraging as that poll might have been for a Booker, a new Senate poll should more than make up for it.

The new poll from Democratic automated pollster Public Policy Polling shows that Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has worn out his welcome. Just 36 percent of New Jersey Democrats think he should run for another term (Lautenberg would be 90 in 2014), and almost three times as many prefer Booker as their nominee (59 percent) over Lautenberg (22 percent).

Even in a crowded primary with Reps. Rob Andrews and Frank Pallone, Booker would begin the race with a 30-point lead. And in the general, he would start out with a 23-point lead on Christie's No. 2, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R).

(Republicans don't really have a top-tier candidate for this race, so it's hard to see the general election being an obstacle for the popular Booker.)

In other words, the Democratic Senate nomination, at this point, appears to be Booker's for the taking, as does the Senate seat. And that's regardless of whether the incumbent senator seeks reelection.

If you're Booker, you're facing a steep uphill battle for governor in 2013 or a virtual coronation for Senate in 2014. Which would you pick?

Unless Booker really wants to continue being an executive, the choice is about as clear as they come. He'll probably give Lautenberg some time to make his decision on retirement, but once that's over with, it's hard to see Booker passing on running for his seat, no matter what the senator decides.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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