N.J. political poll: The good, the bad, the strange

U.S. Sen. Cory A. Booker has narrower lead than expected.
U.S. Sen. Cory A. Booker has narrower lead than expected.
Posted: August 08, 2014

WASHINGTON - There's good news for Hillary Rodham Clinton, bad news for Gov. Christie and President Obama, and strange news for Sen. Cory A. Booker (D., N.J.) in a poll released Wednesday.

In a potential 2016 presidential matchup, Clinton leads Christie, 50 percent to 42 percent, on the governor's home turf of New Jersey, according to the Quinnipiac University Poll.

The poll tests Christie's appeal at home against the liberal leanings of a state that has backed Democrats in every presidential race since 1992.

As Christie "traipses around the nation, his presidential potential seems alive," said Maurice Carroll, the poll's assistant director. But Clinton, "the adopted girl next door, easily beats him in his home state."

New Jersey's blue tint makes Obama's sinking approval rating there more worrisome for his supporters: 44 percent of Garden State voters approve of the job he's doing, while 52 percent disapprove. The results nearly match the lowest approval rating Quinnipiac has recorded for Obama in New Jersey, 43-52 in October 2011.

Booker, meanwhile, enters his reelection campaign with a far smaller head start than many expected against his little-known Republican opponent, Jeff Bell.

Booker leads 47-37, which in most races would be a solid edge, but the gap looks somewhat narrow considering the incumbent's profile compared with that of Bell, who last ran for office in 1978 and moved back to New Jersey only in February after living and working in the Washington-area for 30 years.

Even New Jersey Republicans don't know Bell - but they support him.

The poll found that 68 percent of New Jersey Republicans and 77 percent of all voters don't know enough about the GOP nominee to form an opinion. But Republicans back Bell over Booker by 84-9, the poll found.

While the numbers don't reflect any groundswell for Bell, they seem to show the GOP's desire to oust Booker.

The Republican rejection comes even though Booker has worked to be seen as a bipartisan dealmaker since joining the Senate in October. The former Newark mayor introduced his first bill alongside South Carolina Republican Tim Scott (the only other African American in the Senate), had a much-publicized dinner with Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and has partnered with Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) to promote a criminal-sentencing-reform bill.

Overall, 47 percent of New Jersey voters approve of the work Booker has done, compared with 27 percent who disapprove.

In a race against Bell, Booker wins support from 85 percent of Democrats and leads among independents, 42-34, the poll found.

Of course, the poll comes before campaigning begins in earnest, and Booker has a huge money advantage that he has yet to deploy. He had $3.5 million on hand as of June 30, the latest reporting date. Bell's campaign was $46,000 in debt.

New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since Clifford P. Case in 1972. Case lost to Bell in the GOP primary six years later, and Bell went on to lose to Bill Bradley in the general election.

The poll surveyed 1,148 New Jersey voters on cellphones and land lines from July 31 to Aug. 4. Its margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.


jtamari@phillynews.com

@JonathanTamari

www.inquirer.com/capitolinq

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