Despite the dislike some of us here hold Cory Booker (especially for his "LEAVE BAIN CAPITAL ALONE!!!" moment during last year's presidential race), even those of us who don't like him must admit that he's been the heavy favorite to be the next Senator from New Jersey ever since he first showed interest in the race. And now, after the events of today, I'd say his odds have gone from "heavy favorite" to "all but assured of victory." Why do I say this? Let's take a look.
First, on the Republican side, Chris Christie's appointment of state AG/longtime crony Jeff Chiesa to be Senator until the announced October 16th special election has pretty much snuffed out any flickering embers of hope the GOP had of contesting this seat. Chiesa has already said he will not run for the seat either in the primary or in the special, which kills the hope the GOP had of having at least an incumbant run in October. Indeed, one can picture the GOP having flashbacks to the last time they oh-so-briefly held a Senate seat in NJ, 1982, when Nicholas Brady filled in as a placeholder for the Abscam disgraced Harrison Williams, did not run in the general that year and thus the GOP lost the election to, ironically, Frank Lautenberg. No wonder, then, that Republicans are angry at Christie.
But it's not all Christie's fault for the GOP's dire straights, because even the meager bench the NJ GOP has to offer doesn't seem to want to get in. Per the National Review:
Behind the scenes, candidates are declining to run, donors are wary, and operatives say the seat is out of reach.Even worse for NJ Republicans, the only declared candidate is former Bogata mayor Steve Lonegan, an arch-conservative who has run two failed attempts for governor (including losing to Christie in 2009). And to say the GOP has no confidence in him is an understatement. Back to the Review piece again:
“He burned us,” says a New Jersey Republican consultant. “He could have appointed a senator to stay through 2014. Instead, he gave us a weird little primary during beach season.”
Many of the Republicans who have been mentioned as possible candidates, such as state senator Tom Kean Jr., lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno, and state senator Joe Kyrillos, are privately telling their friends that they probably won’t run.
On Wednesday, state senator Michael Doherty, a prominent backer of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, decided to sit out the race, owing to the compressed calendar. State senator Kevin O’Toole, a popular New Jersey lawmaker, did the same. “If the special election was in November 2014, instead of October, it’d be a different situation,” O’Toole says in a phone interview. “That said, I fully support the governor.”
“If you’re not ready to launch a statewide campaign, it’s a difficult proposition,” explains John Bennett, a former New Jersey state senator and a member of the state Republican committee. “Right now, the cost factor is a deterrent for a lot of people.”
“In October, it could very well be Lonegan against Booker, which would just be a disaster for the party,” says a Trenton insider. “He’s New Jersey’s version of Christine O’Donnell.”Ouch.
So it's clear that Booker or, really, any other potential Dem nominee has very little to fear from any prospective GOP opponent. But what about Booker's fellow Dem contenders? Well, much as some might hate to hear this, the entry of Rep. Rush Holt into the race today, combined with the previous entry of Rep. Frank Pallone, has assured that the anti-Booker vote will be split among at least two other candidates. While either Holt or Pallone would have an uphill battle in a head to head match against Booker, the two of them together pretty much dooms them both. At least they won't have to surrender either of their House seats upon their likely failure.
No, Booker's ascension seems all but assured now. (And he certainly is wasting no time, already getting the necessary signatures, which, given his standing, probably will take him all of five minutes.) Come October, he'll assume his Senate seat and no doubt instant rising star status. After that, one can only guess how long until his national prospects are debated (you have to think the media would love the idea of a Jersey on Jersey fight between him and Christie on the national state).
You may not like it, I know, Booker haters. But political reality is often hard and cold.