Call it the New Jersey political collision course that never happened.
Another poll this morning shows Gov. Chris Christie crushing his Democratic opponent by 30 points; and Newark Mayor Cory Booker demolishing his fellow U.S. Senate candidates in the Democratic Primary and easily beating his leading Republican rival in the general.
According to the Monmouth University poll, New Jersey voters likely to cast ballots in the November election give Christie a 61% to 31% lead over Democrat Barbara Buono.
In an October general election matchup for U.S. Senate, Booker leads probable GOP nominee Steve Lonegan by a 53% to 37% margin. Lonegan does better against the other Democratic contenders, although he still trails all three, the poll finds: U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (45% to 40% for Lonegan), U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (44% to 41%), and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (44% to 42%).
Among potential voters in the August Democratic primary, Booker holds a commanding lead over his challengers, garnering 63% support, compared to 10% for Holt, 8% for Pallone, and 6% for Oliver. The poll did not ask Republican voters about their party’s primary matchup between Lonegan and health clinic founder Dr. Alieta Eck.
“Right now, Booker and Lonegan are the only two candidates in the race with significant statewide name recognition, which contributes to their strong positions in this early poll. It would take a huge organizational turnout effort by any of the other candidates to overcome that advantage in the short time frame of this election,” said Monmouth University Pollster Patrick Murray.
Booker’s name recognition far surpasses that of his rivals. Currently, 3-in-4 likely special election voters have an opinion of Newark’s mayor. And that opinion is overwhelmingly positive, with 61% holding a favorable view and just 15% an unfavorable view. Even Republicans are more likely to have a positive (39%) rather than negative (26%) opinion of Booker. Only 4-in-10 likely voters have an opinion of the other three Democratic contenders, and those views tend to be divided. For Frank Pallone, 24% have a favorable opinion to 17% unfavorable. For Rush Holt, 22% have a favorable opinion to 18% unfavorable. For Sheila Oliver, 20% have a favorable opinion to 19% unfavorable.
On the Republican side of the ballot, a majority of likely special election voters have formed an opinion of conservative activist Steve Lonegan, who made two prior runs for governor. One third (34%) hold a favorable view of the former Bogota mayor to 20% who have an unfavorable view, according to the poll. Only 1-in-10 voters have formed an opinion of Lonegan’s GOP challenger, Dr. Eck. Just 3% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of the first-time candidate and 8% have an unfavorable view of her.
Back to the gubernatorial election: current voter models suggest that turnout for the general will be about 45% of registered voters. Murray said this is slightly lower than the 47% to 49% turnout levels New Jersey has seen in gubernatorial races over the past decade.
The U.S. Senate race in October appears likely to result in even lower turnout, currently pegged at about 40% compared to a more typical 46% to 48% turnout. The Monmouth University Poll’s likely voter model is based on a combination of past voting history from voter registration files and self-reported intention to vote in either the October special election or the November general election.
The poll finds that Democrats are more likely to opt for voting in the October Senate race over November’s gubernatorial and legislative election. If forced to choose to vote in only one election, 73% of likely New Jersey voters say they would cast their ballot in the regular general election to 20% who prefer the special Senate election. Democrats (26%) are more likely than Republicans (14%) to choose the special election.
“Low turnout normally benefits a Republican, so the Democratic nominee will need a boost from supporters more interested in the Senate race to maintain the party’s normal edge in Garden State elections,” said Murray. “This could also translate to fewer Democratic voters in November, which will serve to pump up Gov. Christie’s already daunting lead.”
New Jersey voters, specifically those likely to show up at one or both of this fall’s elections, are not particularly happy with the governor’s decision to call a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat, he added. Just 30% of likely voters approve of this decision to 42% who disapprove, while 24% say it doesn’t really matter to them. Seven-in-ten likely voters (70%) say they have heard that this series of special elections could cost the state up to $24 million and 75% say that this cost bothers them. Only 18% are not bothered by the cost of running these extra elections. Nearly two-thirds of likely voters (65%) say it would be better to vote for U.S. Senate on the same day as the November governor’s election. Just 23% prefer holding the Senate ballot at a separate election.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 10 to 11, 2013 with 636 New Jersey voters likely to vote in either the October special election or the November general election. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.9 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.