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New Jersey Races

Senate Outlook for 2008

Can Democrats Take Advantage of the Turf?

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New Jersey

Outlook: Solid Democratic


October 4, 2008 Update:

This race may have looked awfully close at times, but New Jersey is starting to show its true ‘Blue State’ colors. Painting Democratic Incumbent Frank Lautenberg as too old for the job did not work for primary challenger Bob Andrews, so who is to say it would work for Republican challenger Dick Zimmer (who, by the way, has had some practice in losing elections for this very seat when he was defeated by Bob Torricelli back in 1996)? The polls certainly do not say so, as Lautenberg has opened up a decent lead that has never dipped below seven points since early summer. It seems as though the Democratic equilibrium has returned, and come Election Day, the liberal bastions of Essex and Hudson Counties in North Jersey should help to propel Lautenberg to his fifth (non consecutive) term in office.

June 4, 2008 Update:

Long-time incumbent Frank Lautenberg cruised to victory in the Democratic primary yesterday, beating his very vocal opponent, Rep. Bob Andrews, 59-35. Andrews had repeatedly attacked Lautenberg’s age (he turned 84 in January of this year), saying the people of New Jersey needed someone younger to carry the torch in the Senate. Lautenberg’s margin of victory seems to indicate that the people of New Jersey disagreed. He’ll face former Congressman Dick Zimmer in November’s general election. Considering Zimmer has been out of Congress since 1996, Lautenberg should be able to keep this seat a Democratic hold.

April 14, 2008 Update:

This race is getting more crowded than the Jersey Shore on the 4th of July. With Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg having turned 84 in January, aspiring politicos on both sides of the aisle are jumping into the fray. Representative Bob Andrews has announced he’ll challenge Lautenberg in the Democratic primary, despite recent polls that show Andrews with a deficit of 31 points. Assuming Lautenberg wins the nomination, which looks to be a solid bet, he’ll face one of three Republican challengers: state Senator Joe Pennacchio, college professor Murray Sabrin, or businessman Andrew Unanue, though rumor has it that Unanue may withdraw before the Republicans even hold their primary. Regardless of who he faces, Lautenberg has a well-financed war chest, and should beat back any challengers to win a fifth term.


Background

While New Jersey voters have their eye on next year’s election, many wonder how much that focus should be on current Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg’s approaching 84th birthday. If Lautenberg were just 20 years younger, most would hail him as a shoo-in incumbent; his strong and consistent criticism of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, his Congressional experience, and his being a Democrat in this dark blue state would all greatly work in his favor. However, his old age has many pulling for retirement rather than re-election. In Lautenberg’s favor is New Jersey’s ranking as the second most expensive state to campaign in. With $2.9 million on hand and $1 million raised in the first quarter alone, Lautenberg certainly has the funds needed.

As it is still early in the race, thus far only two exploratory committees have been formed, with no Republicans officially entering the race as of yet. Strongly conservative Assemblyman Michael Doherty has formed one of these committees, but seems an unlikely candidate in this very blue state. The successful real estate developer Anne Evans Eastbrook is the only other potential Republican challenger to have formed an exploratory committee. Though Eastbrook may have the funds to contend with the big boys of New Jersey, she is a widely unknown figure among voters. Finally, it is the undecided state Assemblyman, Joe Pennacchio that seems to be Lautenberg’s biggest worry. Often deemed Reagan-esque, many Republicans feel that Pennacchio’s bipartisan appeal would make him very electable.

In a state that has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, the GOP will have their work cut out for them. Though Lautenberg’s age certainly poses a real threat to Democrats, many speculate that presidential election fever will bring Democrats out to the polls in full force next November. Nonetheless, if Giuliani makes it onto the Republican ticket, such a theory could be turned on its head.

Candidates

Frank Lautenberg (I) – Democrat – current U.S. Senator
Website

Dick Zimmer – Republican – former Congressman
Website