Almost two weeks into the race, little has changed in the running, with Democrat Newark Mayor Cory Booker holding a strong lead over Republican former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan; however, the candidates have not been idle, and the race is far from settled.
Lonegan has picked up critical support from New Jersey's Republican party, as Governor Chris Christie endorsed him and promised that he and other top state Republicans would be fully behind him including fundraising. Christie previously distanced himself from Lonegan prior to the August primary victory, claiming to be focused on his own Gubernatorial election bid. Lonegan had been critical of Christie's close ties to President Obama, and to what Lonegan claims was excessive Federal aid following Hurricane Sandy. This has gotten him the attention of Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, the Libertarian Party favorite who has quarreled with Christie particularly over national security expenditures as well as disaster relief aid. Rand is also considering how he might help the conservative Republican win the Senate seat. Lonegan's extreme fiscal conservatism has also gotten him national attention; recent comments about reducing the food stamp program and encouraging single mothers to find jobs have brought negative publicity.
Booker, meanwhile, has picked up an endorsement from President Barrack Obama, apparently having overcome any residual animosity from criticisms Booker made of Obama's attacks on the financial industry during his campaign against Mitt Romney. This has been a double-edged endorsement, as national conservative organizations are clamoring to Lonegan's side as a referendum against Obama, in a "Defeat Cory Booker" movement intended to send a message to Washington. Booker appeared at the celebration of the March on Washington, addressing the D.C. gathering on the importance of the current generation carrying forward the commitment to justice and equality. However, he has not won the support of the progessive wing of his own party, many of whom perceive him as a closet Republican, too moderate for their tastes and more interested in advancing his own career than the objectives of constituents, and too invested in the financial industry that has contributed to his campaign, reflected in some of his pro-corporate policies. He also supports education reform including charter schools and test-based teacher assessments, and so has alienated teachers unions to the point that they deny he is truly interested in what has been his core political issue throughout his career, child poverty.
Still, Booker has the lead, with more than fifty percent of voters likely to vote in October favoring him, Lonegan trailing with somewhere just above a third of the voters in his court. Lonegan will have to inspire more conservatives to get to the polls, and win the favor of more moderates. The short campaign--the election looms on October 16th--is against him, but the fact that it is a Wednesday election in October means that what counts most is driving voters to the polls.