Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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At debate, Lonegan insults, Booker insulates

Senate hopefuls brawl at Rowan U

At debate, Lonegan insults, Booker insulates

New Jersey's two U.S. Senate hopefuls preached past each other to their respective choirs Tuesday at the second and final debate before the October 16 special election.

While the hour-long brawl at Rowan University seems unlikely to move many if any of the handful of "undecided" voters aware of next Wednesday's contest,  I'd say the ice-veined (if verging on unhinged) fury of rising Republican challenger Steve Lonegan's performance  topped the gee-whiz wonkitude and "let's work together" platitudes ceaselessly served up by semi-fading front-runner Cory Booker. 

The ferocious fracas was great entertainment: Something like a mixed martial arts version of Real Housewives of New Jersey, without the facelifts.

Lonegan barely stopped boiling, and Booker rarely lost his cool. Lonegan tossed grenades, which Booker (mostly) ducked with a display of earnest incredulousness that in theatrical terms was no match for Lonegan's reactionary righteousness - but did prove the liberal Newark mayor posesses a hide every bit as thick as that belonging to the conservative former suburban mayor.

Lonegan said "Hollywood" Booker's Newark is a "black hole," a money pit with bodies of homicide victims floating in its waterways.  Booker called Lonegan an extremely extreme extremist who would deny gay people civil rights and women access to abortions (their furious exchange over the latter consumed the debate's closing moments).

The verbal pyrotechnics made Tuesday's debate between Gov. Chris Christie and challenger Barbara Buono look decorous, if not soporific, by comparison. But I doubt the second Booker-Lonegan matchup will change the trajectory of the race, which polls still show is likely to end with Booker headed to Washington, and Lonegan to  Fox News, or Anger Management.

The therapy, not the TV show.

--KEVIN RIORDAN

Kevin Riordan Inquirer Columnist
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Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

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