Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan cruised to the Republican Party nomination in August. However, the path to a general election victory has not been as easy. Standing in Lonegan's way of snapping a 41 year drought for Republicans in U.S. Senate races in New Jersey is Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Even before the two men won their respective primaries, Lonegan has been striving to chip away at Booker and the lead he has had in polls since early June. Throughout his whole campaign, Lonegan has been one thing: himself.
Lonegan despite trailing by high double digits has not wavered his campaign strategy and his stances on issues and how he feels about Booker.
He would voice the following about Booker at one campaign stop:
He can issue all the Cory Booker platitudes — Cory-tudes — that he wants. Cory Booker has failed people.
He would follow that by calling out Booker for hanging out with celebrities while there are murders taking place in Newark.
While Booker has established himself as not only a major player in New Jersey's political arena but someone who is rising on the national stage, Lonegan would still have a tough road to victory on October 16th. As noted, it has been 41 since Clifford Case won election in 1972 for the GOP. Once Booker announced his intentions to run, it set him on a road to an almost certain election as long as he cleared the primary field.
Lonegan before the race even started provided a contrast to Booker as he has been outspoken of several policies of President Barack Obama. Booker has been endorsed by Obama and has largely supported the stances and opinions of the president. Thus, while it might be a special election with limited attention; Lonegan has taken every chance he can get to link Booker with Obama and expand the scope of the race. He has been a proud supporter of the Tea Party and even challenged Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, at times including trying to beat him in 2009.
While Lonegan might be louder and more brash, he certainly lacks the name recognition of Booker. He also is dwarfed when it comes to fundraising as Booker has more than a 25 to 1 edge. Outside groups have attempted to interject themselves to help the conservative candidate, but that still has hardly changed the complexion of the race.
The one thing that might make the race a little closer and the Lonegan campaign is hoping that it will be larger than expected but turnout on a Wednesday special election will likely not be very high. The August primary barely drew a double digit percent turnout. Off year elections generally bring out maybe 40% at best and races in a year when national races aren't taking place drops turnout even further.
However, based on the electorate of New Jersey; even looking at this strategy might not be a path to victory. Governor Christie is not exactly embraced by conservative and his polling success and likely reelection will be largely due to Independent voters along with conservative and moderate Democrats. Lonegan's strength largely resides in the base of his party and Democrats have a 2 to 1 edge among registered voters. Lonegan has spoken out against things that would benefit the state like aid for Hurricane Sandy victims that are popular across party lines.
As Lonegan would state talking about himself,
I don’t think I’m a flamethrower. I advocate for issues, I advocate for them passionately. That’s just who I am.
As was seen in 2010 and 2012, the Tea Party movement might have been successful in a couple primaries but they could not break through in a general election. That is something that Lonegan is not taking into consideration as he only amps up his stances and views throughout this campaign.
Some of his words have included:
People should be able to work hard and save and accumulate wealth and a better future, and not have it taken away by the government, whether it’s through taxation, or regulation, or debasing the dollar.
That can be applied to a Tea Party or conservative ad of the last few years. Again, that could work in some parts of the country but a state that leans Democratic is not one of them.
To give you an example of the type of senator he would be; you would just have to look to Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY); all favorites of the Tea Party and outspoken members of their party. All three are men that Lonegan supports and looks at as shining examples for the country.
While he was successful in getting elected in a town that has voted for multiple Democrats in national races, he lost twice when he ran for governor as well as a previous campaign for the U.S. House. Voters in 2009 in a Republican primary were more comfortable with some more moderate like Christie and if he was up against a more moderate primary opponent this year he may have had a closer race possibly even losing.
While not the biggest supporter or fan of him, Christie has stood behind Lonegan during this campaign despite the fact that he has worked with Booker to improve Newark and the state at times during his term.
The best Christie could mutter for Lonegan:
I know Steve is going to give Cory Booker some tussle.
Possibly the biggest way to sum up Lonegan is something he expressed about himself:
I don’t have a filter, that’s my problem.
He has been an advocate for the conservative movement and will generate some excitement among his party's base but his stances and style seem to put him in a tough position as the general election nears. Lonegan has run this campaign his way and it might lead him to a rough defeat against Booker. But, it will not stop him from finding his next fight or challenge in a state with what seems like a limited audience.