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August 12, 2008

Lautenberg Leads, Age Issue Lurks

New Jersey voters generally have trouble making up their minds until the end of an election season. But a new poll shows the overwhelming majority of Garden State voters have their favored candidates in a Senate race that pits incumbent Frank Lautenberg against former Rep. Dick Zimmer.

The Quinnipiac University poll, conducted 8/4-10, surveyed 1,468 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 2.6%. Lautenberg and Zimmer were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Lautenberg......48 / 79 / 12 / 42 / 45 / 51 (+1 from last, 6/11)
Zimmer.............41 / 12 / 80 / 44 / 46 / 36 (+3)

Lautenberg holds big leads among urban and suburban voters, while Zimmer keeps it close by blowing out the incumbent in the exurbs. Zimmer, who represented a district in the middle of the state that included Trenton, will need to boost his support in three Republican-held districts that contain parts of the Philadelphia suburbs, where he trails by five points.

Both candidates have net favorable ratings, though Lautenberg's 43% favorable to 35% unfavorable is not extremely healthy for an incumbent (46% approve of Lautenberg's job performance, while 38% disapprove). And Zimmer has name identification problems, with just 25% of New Jersey voters seeing him favorably and 12% viewing him unfavorably; 62% of voters have not heard enough to make up their mind.

Garden State voters are also worried about Lautenberg's age. The Senator's primary opponent, Rep. Rob Andrews, ran advertisements pointing out that Lautenberg would be 90 years old once his term is up, and while Andrews couldn't win, 55% of voters still say Lautenberg, at 84, is too old to effectively serve in the Senate. If Zimmer can somehow make that argument without insulting older voters, he could cut into Lautenberg's lead.