UPDATED BELOW - 1:30 PM
Rush Holt knows he’s not Cory Booker – and he’s trying to make an asset out of that fact.
The Democratic congressman, who polls show is little known outside his Central Jersey district, launched a slick new Web site and introductory video Wednesday that contrasts his more modest profile – liberal Congressman, nuclear physicist and five-time Jeopardy! champ who once beat IBM supercomputer Watson – with that of the lionized mayor.
“I’ll be the first to admit: I’m no Cory Booker,” Holt says in the video. He stands in a college lecture hall as he speaks. “I don’t have a million Twitter followers, I’ve never run into a burning building, and I’m not friends with Mark Zuckerberg – though I did like him on Facebook. I’m a teacher, a scientist, and my most famous moment was beating the computer in Jeopardy! So why would I run for the Senate against Cory Booker? Well, in Congress, I’ve always done what I think is right for New Jersey.”
In the two-minute video, Holt touts his work to boost funding for math and science education, his vote against the second Iraq war and stand against “unwarranted spying.” He highlights his support for environmental rules to fight climate change, tougher gun laws and calls for closing “corporate tax loopholes.”
“But I can do a lot more in the Senate,” he says. “We’re facing some serious problems, and most of the answers aren’t rocket science – just good progressive policy.”
Holt is one of four Democrats competing in the primary to fill the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. He, Congressman Frank Pallone and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver are big underdogs against the popular, well-known Booker.
To have any chance, one of them will have to break out of the pack and separate him or herself as the clear alternative to the mayor.
UPDATED: In an afternoon conference call, Holt said he has faced stiffer challenges.
"This isn't even the toughest race of my career," Holt said. "I've seen tougher. I'm in this to win, I intend to win, I expect to win. I've overcome tough political odds before."
He said his video is an introduction that he hopes "sets the stage for, I think, a vigorous campaign to come."
Holt, though, has less than $1 million in campaign cash to introduce himself to the many voters who don’t know him. But his video attempts to address his steep odds. He concludes:
“I’m going to beat Cory Booker and win this campaign the same way I beat Watson in Jeopardy! – one answer at a time."