Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a national political star thought to be the Democrat best able to defeat popular Republican Gov. Christie, has opted not to challenge the gov next year.
The decision comes after months of deliberation and means that Christie's path toward re-election is considerably less complicated. The only major Democrat to declare candidacy so far is state Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), who lacks the name recognition, fundraising prowess and favorability ratings of Christie. It is unclear if other state Democrats (we're looking at you, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald) will now throw their hats into the ring.
Regardless of who runs -- and even if Christie's post-Sandy popularity falls back down to earth and the race is competitive -- the campaign will have a lot less star power. Booker is a politician who rescued a neighbor in a burning building, who lived in the projects for eight years and who has been the subject of two documentaries. He is not your average New Jersey Dem.
In typical Booker fashion, the mayor released the news this morning to his 1.3 million Twitter followers with a hashtag -- #finishingthework -- that indicates he's going to stay in Newark until his second term ends in two years. He also put out a video (below) on his web site, corybooker.com, that listed his accomplishments in Newark as a prelude to this: "But there is still much work to do. And so, let there be no doubt, I will complete my full second term as mayor. As for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for The United States Senate in 2014."
That seat is now held by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, an 88-year-old Democrat who would either retire or face Booker in a primary. From there, Booker's path to the Senate would be easier than it would have been to defeat a popular incumbent governor. New Jersey also hasn't elected a Republican to the senate in 40 years, during which time several Republicans have been elected gov.