U.S. Senator Cory Booker is going to be elected to his own full term next November.
None of the Republicans said to be considering a challenge to Booker can beat him.
It’s not that Booker is invincible, as was widely thought prior to the Special Senate Election last October. He is beatable. Steve Lonegan exposed the fallacies of the Booker myth and Patrick Murray documented that Booker’s support is shallow. Had Washington Republicans not followed Senator Ted Cruz’s lead to shut down the government in October and had State Comptroller Matt Boxer released his audit of Newark’s City Government which exposed millions of wasted taxpayer money and management practices that encourage fraud in September instead of this week, Lonegan might have pulled off the upset that Booker deserved.
There’s nothing wrong with 4 of the 5 Republicans reported to be looking to challenge Booker. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, Senator Minority Leader Tom Kean JR, Senator Mike Doherty or Assemblyman Jay Webber would all serve New Jersey well in the U.S. Senate.
That Darryl Isherwood included Assemblyman Chris Brown is his list of 5 Republican of potential candidates to challenge Booker is more of a reflection of Isherwood’s sense of humor than it is of Brown’s viability as a candidate for any office in the future. After blaming his Assembly running mate John Amodeo’s 39 vote loss on Governor Christie, Brown will be lottery winner lucky if he is even re-nominated for his Assembly seat in 2015. “What will Brown do after politics?” MMM asked a senior Republican strategist after the gaffe. “We’ll find out soon,” the strategist said with a laugh.
(Correction: As a commenter pointed out, Isherwood was referring to a different Assemblyman Chris Brown (the LD 8 Brown) than the one who blamed Christie for his running mate’s loss. My mistake makes my overall point. MMM readers are more informed than the average voter. How many knew there was even one Chris Brown in the Assembly prior to the LD 2 Brown’s gaffe? There isn’t a member of the legislature with the statewide name ID to compete with Booker~ Art)
But Bramnick, Kean, Doherty and Webber, as fine as they are, do not have the where-with-all to defeat Booker in 2014. None of them have sufficient statewide name recognition, none of them have the charisma to match Booker’s and none of them have $10 million of their own money to risk on a long shot race.
State Senator Joe Kyrillos had raised almost $1 million at this point in the 2012 election cycle when he attempted to unseat U. S. Senator Bob Menendez. None of the aforementioned potential candidates have started raising money for a 2014 race against Booker. Kyrillos eventually raised $5 million, half of what Menendez spent. He told MMM that he thinks a Republican needs $10-$20 million to win statewide in New Jersey. None of the guys considering a challenge to Booker can raise that kind of money.
Booker already has $2 million for his 2014 campaign.
Unless someone with celebrity like name recognition and lots of money to burn steps up to challenge Booker, the GOP has no chance of picking up the seat.
But there probably is no such celebrity on the horizon. Geraldo Rivera floated his name as a candidate last year but then went all Anthony Weiner when he saw his poll numbers. Lou Dobbs is another cable TV personality who has been mentioned in the past as a U.S. Senate candidate from New Jersey. But Dobbs is too white and too frumpy to beat Booker, and too smart to try.
Yet the 2014 U.S. Senate race is still an opportunity for the NJ GOP. Republicans would be foolish to let the nomination go to someone like Dr. Alieta Eck to take one for the team. Eck is a wonderful woman with important and workable ideas on how to fix our healthcare system. But she’s not going to be a U. S. senator or a governor.
If the Republican establishment’s leadership can broaden their vision beyond their own self-interests and look beyond the next election cycle with some long term strategic thinking, they will pick their next gubernatorial candidate in the next month or so and run that person against Booker next year.
The next gubernatorial election in New Jersey could happen in 2015 or 2016, depending on Governor Chris Christie’s presidential prospects. Even if Christie serves his full term, which would mean he chooses not to run for president or is defeated early in the primary process if he does run, there is no Republican who currently has the statewide name recognition to be viable in the next gubernatorial election. Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney is already laying the groundwork to win the governorship, whenever the election might be. If Sweeney wins the next governor’s race, Republicans will have to wait for the next Jim Florio or Jon Corzine to govern New Jersey before they will ever have a hope of winning the governorship.
The 2014 U.S. Senate race if the only statewide race prior to the next gubernatorial election. The NJ GOP should use it as an opportunity for their candidate to succeed Christie to gain name recognition and favorable public opinion needed to make that person competitive in the next gubernatorial election.
Whether the next GOP gubernatorial nominee is Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, Kyrillos, Kean, Doherty, Webber, Senator Kevin O’Toole or someone else, the GOP county chairs, legislative leaders, major fund raisers, donors and strategists should come together now, pick someone and start planning to defeat Sweeney or whoever the Democrats nominate to be the next governor. Running the person they choose against Booker in 2014 should be the first step in that plan.