• NJ-Sen, -Gov: Not so interesting: a new Fairleigh Dickinson poll showing both Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie with big leads over their opponents. (Booker's beating Republican Steve Lonegan 50-22, while Christie's ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono 50-26.) Much more interesting: this consummate takedown of Booker from the excellent Alex Pareene, who nails what many of Booker's critics find so discomfiting about the man. It's not the kind of piece that can be easily summarized, but here's a taste:
Putting Cory Booker's "Visit Newark, I Dare You" tourism pitch aside, let us note that his response to the argument that he is too cozy with rich people is that he is indeed very good friends with very rich people and that has benefited the citizens of Newark. OK, but: Is that a sustainable model of governance? Once Cory Booker leaves Newark to be a United States senator, who is going to fund Newark's schools and parks? Will Newark residents have to elect someone else that rich people love? Charity based on one charismatic guy's networking ability is not a replicable model. But this is how Booker understands his job.Also worth a read is this article from the National Review, of all places, discussing Booker's frequently-told tales about a Newark drug dealer he once knew named T-Bone. The problem: even Booker supporters acknowledge that T-Bone never existed.
If elected to the Senate, "Booker emphasizes the work he would be doing with the poorer parts of New Jersey and his ability to 'call up companies and say, "This is a moral sin …"'" It's not clear what sort of sin Booker is talking about in his hypothetical here, but it's very Booker that his response to this "sin" isn't "I will pass regulation to stop it" but I will call the company and persuade them. If they agree, good! If they don't, because the "sin" is profitable and the market responds not to morality but to profit? Oh well!
Booker himself still insists T-Bone is real, but the piece demolishes his claims by cleverly relying on contradictory statements not from Booker's opponents but rather his allies, including a Rutgers professor who says he pulled Booker aside years ago to express his disapproval. Booker apparently hasn't publicly brought up T-Bone since that private discussion, but his campaign spokesman couldn't have offered more of a non-response when asked about the topic today: "I think your questions have been answered a long time ago."
• PA-Gov: Former state Auditor Jack Wagner, who lost the Democratic primary for Pittsburgh mayor earlier this year but is considering a bid for governor, says he'll decide "within the next 30 days."
• VA-Gov: The League of Conservation voters is out with a new poll from PPP that confirms other recent data showing Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli. PPP has McAuliffe up 44-37, similar to the 48-42 edge Quinnipiac just gave him, at least going by the spread. Unlike Quinnipiac, though, PPP included Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who takes an improbably high 9 percent. That number's very likely to drop by Election Day, but it does explain the lower vote shares for both major party candidates in PPP's findings.
• AL-01: Former state Sen. Bradley Byrne is out with his first ad in the Republican primary for this fall's special election to replace ex-Rep. Jo Bonner. Citing his work as chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, the narrator says Byrne "cleaned up" the state's scandal-plagued two-year colleges. The buy is reportedly for $47,000.
• AR-04: How odd. Less than three weeks after announcing a bid for Arkansas's open 4th Congressional District, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr is dropping out. It seems like the proximate cause for Darr's decision was recently revealed irregularties in the campaign finance reports he filed as lieutenant governor, and the supposed criticism he came under for it. Seems a little thin to abandon a campaign over, but in any event, Darr's departure leaves state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman as the main Republican running for this seat.
• NYC Comptroller: Well, that's a bit of a turnaround. Quinnipiac's new poll of the Democratic primary for city comptroller finds the race all tied at 46, even though two weeks ago, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer held a commanding 19-point lead over Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Prior to that last poll, Spitzer had the airwaves all to himself, and was spending a ton of his own money on TV. Since then, though, Stringer's gone up with advertisement of his own, which would help explain how that gap closed.
But 19 points in two weeks? That's a huge deficit to make up in such a short timeframe, and it makes me wonder if Quinnipiac's mid-August survey wasn't something of an outlier. Indeed, some of Stringer's labor allies tried to push back against Quinnipiac's poll last week, dribbling out results from their own poll that showed Spitzer up just 6. At the time, I was dismissive of the numbers, because the pollster's name wasn't released and because the undecideds seemed weirdly high (the topline had Spitzer leading 39-33). But perhaps things really weren't as far apart as Quinnipiac claimed.
In any event, the race definitely seems to be close now, because a second poll also released on Thursday confirmed Quinnipiac's numbers. In a survey for amNewYork and News 12, Penn Schoen Berland sees Spitzer edging Stringer by just a 46-43 margin. This is PSB's first poll of the race, so we can't check on their trendlines. But if these two new polls are correct, then this contest is definitely in tossup territory.
• Polltopia: Interesting. Democratic robopollster Public Policy Polling has long managed to maintain its track record for accuracy despite not calling cell phones. (Federal law prohibits making automated calls to cells under most circumstances.) But with almost two in five adults living in households without landline service these days, PPP is about to change its practices. The firm is soliciting proposals that would allow them to reach such voters while still remaining affordable. PPP director Tom Jensen says that this could be done in a variety of ways, including text- or Internet-based systems. Live operator calls are also possible, but given their high cost, Jensen says they likely won't be PPP's "first choice."