Primary nearly half over, Booker still holds huge lead

Senate candidate Newark Mayor Cory Booker addresses a gathering of supporters at an event in Deptford Township, N.J. Tuesday, June 18, 2013. A Quinnipiac University poll has Booker with 53 percent of Democratic support in a four-way primary. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

WASHINGTON -- The New Jersey Senate primary is nearly half over, and the fundamentals haven't changed: polls make Cory Booker the big favorite on the Democratic side, and Steve Lonegan has an even larger lead in the less competitive GOP race.

A Quinnipiac University poll out today has Booker with 53 percent of Democratic support in a four-way primary. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone is at 10 percent, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt is at 8, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver comes in at 3. Those numbers are nearly unchanged from a June 10 survey.

Lonegan leads the little-known Alieta Eck 62-5 for the Republican nomination.

The primary is four weeks old, and only five weeks remain. In other words, it will take a huge surge, or extremely odd turnout in the Aug. 13 primary, to make this race close.

In a potential general election match-up, Booker has a 53-30 edge over Lonegan, the poll found.

Pollsters have been cautious with their numbers, because the odd primary date makes it hard to predict who will show up at the voting booths. If only hard-core partisans participate, the theory goes, the numbers could skew.

But at a certain point, overwhelming popularity is a pretty reliable way to win elections, and Booker has it, despite barbs from critics who argue that his name ID outpaces his accomplishments. Statewide, 56 percent of voters have a positive opinion of him, compared to 16 percent who see him negatively.

The next best rating for a Democrat in the race is Pallone -- who has 22 percent favorability, with 63 percent of voters not knowing him well enough to form an opinion. Fewer than 40 percent of voters could form an opinion on the other Democrats in the race.

For Lonegan, 30 percent of voters view him favorably and 54 percent don't know enough about him.

As state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D., Union) explained in my story Friday: Booker's "enormous popularity transcends any personal connection that other candidates have."


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