Friday, December 19, 2014

Cory Booker for Senate?

As Newark mayor and political celebrity Cory Booker mulls a run against Gov. Christie, two polls might make his decision a lot easier. Essentially, they say this: forget Trenton, aim for DC.

Cory Booker for Senate?

In this April 13, 2012 photo, Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker speaks in Newark. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
In this April 13, 2012 photo, Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker speaks in Newark. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File) AP

WASHINGTON -- As Newark mayor and political celebrity Cory Booker mulls a run against Gov. Christie, two polls might make his decision a lot easier. Essentially, they say this: forget Trenton, aim for DC.

Surveys released Thursday and Friday by Democratic-firm Public Policy Polling show that Christie has incredible popularity and a huge lead over Booker in a potential governor’s race next year, but that Booker has a strong lead among possible 2014 Senate candidates, even holding an advantage over the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

The poll on the governor’s match-up, released today, shows that Christie has a 50-36 lead over Booker in the race for governor in 2013. Christie has a 67 percent approval rating, according to the poll of 600 New Jersey voters. That number probably won’t stay quite so high, but how far could it realistically drop between now and Election Day 2013 – less than a year away? “He looks pretty safe for reelection,” the polling outfit said.

Meanwhile, Booker has a clear path to the U.S. Senate, if he wants it. Only 36 percent of Democratic primary voters think Lautenberg, 88, should run again in 2014. By a count of 59-22 they said they’d rather see Booker than Lautenberg running in 2014.

Bottom line: “the governor's race would be an uphill battle for Booker,” the polling firm said, “but the Senate seat may be his for the taking if he's looking for a promotion.”

The question is, does he want this promotion? There is an allure to being a political executive, as Christie and Booker have both demonstrated. A governor or big-city mayor stands on his own platform. They can draw attention and drive the public discussion.

In the Senate, Booker would be one of 100 lawmakers, far removed from his constituents. Instead of riding with police, playing basketball with local kids and racing to emergencies, as a freshman Senator he’d be waiting hours to ask a question at hearings, listening to long-winded speeches by Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell and voting on cloture motions.

There are some who think Booker could run in 2013 and even if he loses against Christie come back again 2014 for the Senate seat, provided he keeps the governor’s race close. But that’s a dicey proposition. Run against a popular governor and take a beating and Booker could damage his strong chances for a Senate seat. Also, running statewide is a grueling process, and in New Jersey, expensive. Would Booker tap out his donors in 2013? Would he have the mental energy for back-to-back races?

Also, if Booker did run for Senate, the governor’s office would still be there down the line, once Christie is out of the picture (either from finishing a second term or moving to DC himself).

Booker’s decision has implications for a number of South Jersey lawmakers who would love to move up and might eye a 2014 Senate run if given the chance, including U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, of Gloucester County.

It’s a decision that's looking a lot simpler.

Jonathan Tamari
About this blog

Jonathan Tamari is the Inquirer’s Washington correspondent. He writes about the lawmakers, politics and policy that affect Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Tamari previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Before that he worked in Trenton, reporting on the characters and color of New Jersey state government. He lives in Washington.

Reach Jonathan at jtamari@phillynews.com.

Jonathan Tamari
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected