Congressman Frank Pallone is on television more than U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) now-a-days, not because of his outrage that House Speaker John Boehner delayed the vote of the Superstom Sandy relief package, but because he needs to raise his profile in the minds of New Jersey voters.
Since Newark Mayor Cory Booker dropped out of the gubernatorial race and announced his intentions to explore seeking the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Frank Lautenberg in 2014, Pallone has been letting Democratic power brokers that he too want’s Lautenberg’s job and he has been on TV every chance he can get. Pallone has long coveted a U. S. Senate seat, but has never had the fortitude to risk his seat in the House to run for it. Governor Jon Corzine passed over Pallone in favor of Bob Menendez in 2006 for the appointment to fill the Seante vacancy created by Corzine’s election as governor and Lautenberg came out of retirement to take over Bob Toricelli’s spot on the ballot in 2002 after Pallone passed or was passed over, depending on which version of the story you believe.
Pallone is acting like he is willing to make a race of it against Booker for the 2014 Democratic nomination for Senate. Given Booker’s star power, social media savvy and resulting name recognition, Pallone has an uphill battle. Booker works twitter better than any other politician with his clothes on. In order to match Booker’s name recognition, Pallone would need a crisis to go on TV about every week. Either that or he needs to start running into burning buildings and living on food stamps. Or, he can run in a statewide race in an election he is not expected to win to raise his name ID and as prelude to the race he wants to win.
Prior to Jon Corzine’s money, that’s how politicians gained their statewide profiles in New Jersey. Christie Whitman narrowly lost to Bill Bradley for U.S Senate in 1992 before narrowly defeating Jim Florio for Governor in 1993. Jim McGreevey narrowly lost to Whitman in 1997 and kept running for four years, winning the governorship in 2001.
New Jersey Democrats expect that Governor Christie will be reelected this year. Some of the most powerful Democrats are doing just fine with Christie in office and want him to be reelected. Their problem is that they don’t want a Christie landslide to put their control of the Senate and Assembly at risk. As long as they can keep Christie in check with control of the legislature, they’re happy. They fear that Senator Barbara Buono, the only Democrat running for Governor so far, is not the candidate to thwart a Christie landslide. Their other options, former Acting Governor Dick Codey (Wan Kenobi) and Senate President Steve “The Kitten” Sweeney are problematic. Codey could prevent a down ballot rout in North Jersey and Sweeney could prevent a down ballot rout in South Jersey, but either one of them would have to put their own Senate seat at risk if they run for Governor. Neither of them could raise enough money to make a campaign against Christie competitive.
Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-9) has been mentioned as a gubernatorial candidate. Pascrell could be a formidable and entertaining candidate, but he wouldn’t win. And there is no upside for Pascrell, who will be 76 years old later this month, to run a grueling statewide campaign against the popular Christie. There has been no indication that Pascrell wants a higher office before retiring.
If Pallone is the gubernatorial candidate, his keeps his job in the House. Codey and Sweeney defend and keep their State Senate seats. Pallone can easily raise the money to qualify for state matching funds for a gubernatorial race and can continue to raise money for a 2014 U.S. Senate race. As long as Pallone keeps the race against Christie within 10 points, his name recognition and favorable ratings will be close to or maybe even exceed Booker’s this time next year when the Dems are getting ready to choose a replacement for Lautenberg.
That’s not to say that we want Pallone to rise to the Senate. It matters little to MMM if Booker or Pallone replaces Lautenberg. The only realistic scenario of a Republican replacing Lautenberg is if his seat becomes vacant before his term expires and Governor Christie appoints his replacement. The only other scenarios we see of a Republican replacing Lautenberg is if either Scott Sipprelle or Congressman Jon Runyan risk treasure and comfort to run for Senate in 2014. We don’t think either will do it.
But the Democratic and Republic races for the 2014 nominations to replace Pallone in NJ-6 would be great for MMM’s traffic and revenue, as would a 2013 Christie -Pallone gubernatorial race.
Unless Pallone runs a statewide race this year, and there is only one, for governor, he will likely be a bridesmaid to Booker in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. He won’t likely risk his House seat by competing in a primary for Senate in 2014, unless the polls next winter show him beating Booker. That won’t happen unless he runs for governor this year.