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« Dems Lead Generic By 18 | Blog Home Page | DC Gets A Bowl Game »

Lautenberg In Trouble

With just over a month to go before the state's June 3 primary, incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg is running ahead of Rep. Rob Andrews, who surprised political observers by declaring his intent to run for the seat last month. But within a new poll, many Garden State voters tell Monmouth University pollsters that Lautenberg may be in trouble, either in June or in a November matchup with likely GOP nominee Dick Zimmer.

The survey, conducted for Gannett between 4/24-28, surveyed 720 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 3.7%. 396 voters were tested in the Democratic sample, for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%, and 230 Republicans were included in their party's sample, for a margin of error of +/- 6.5%. Lautenberg and Andrews were tested, and on the Republican side Zimmer, State Senator Joe Pennacchio and college professor Murray Sabrin were matched up.

Primary Election Matchups
Lautenberg 35
Andrews 20

Zimmer 25
Pennacchio 5
Sabrin 4

New Jersey voters are notoriously reluctant to share their opinions with pollsters, and the high number of undecided voters should come as no surprise. Voters there tend to break heavily only in the final days of polling leading up to an election.

But the fact that a sitting U.S. Senator can only garner a third of the votes in his own primary should be unsettling. And despite his strong name recognition, just 26% of voters say Lautenberg should be re-elected, while 61% say it's time for someone else. That gives Andrews a big opening; even 56% of Democrats think someone else should be representing the state.

Still, Lautenberg's biggest benefit is his name recognition and voter perceptions that he's doing a good job. 48% approve of his job performance while 31% disapprove, and 43% view him favorably, compared with 30% who see him unfavorably. That's not a great number, but given that his name is recognized by a total of 94% of the state is a positive; just 43% recognize Andrews' name, and he boasts just a 13% favorable to 12% unfavorable rating.

As a side note, New Jersey voters also maintain a historically low opinion of their incumbents. Governor Jon Corzine has just a 36% job approval rating, while 53% disapprove. That's dramatically worse than his already upside-down 40% approval to 44% disapproval rating from January. Junior Senator Bob Menendez's ratings are also an anemic 41% approval to 31% disapproval.

In this year's Senate contest, the Democratic candidate, whoever that may be, remains a strong favorite in the Garden State. 54% of respondents said they were more likely to vote for that party, while just 24% said they would likely vote for the Republican winner.