WEST LONG BRANCH – Newark Mayor Cory Booker maintains a daunting lead in the Democratic nomination contest to fill the late Frank Lautenberg’s U.S. Senate seat, according to the results of a The Monmouth University Poll.
The poll found Booker doing well among all Democratic groups, including in his opponents’ own backyards. The Monmouth University Poll is the first to specifically survey likely voters in the Aug. 13th Democratic primary.
Booker currently claims support of nearly half (49 percent) of likely voters in the Democratic primary to be held four weeks from today. Significantly fewer say they intend to vote for Congressman Frank Pallone (12 percent), Congressman Rush Holt (8 percent), or General Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (3 percent. Another 28 percent are undecided.
“Cory Booker’s lead appears to be impregnable. There is very little in the poll that shows a path for the other candidates to overtake him,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
One factor is turnout. There is no precedent for a special primary in August. Turnout could range anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 Democrats.
The likely voter model for this poll falls toward the upper end of that range. However, there would be little difference in the results if the model was restricted to voters with the highest likelihood of turning out. Voters with a consistent primary voting history and greater awareness of the upcoming primary still give widespread support to Booker (47 percent) over Pallone (15 percent), Holt (10 percent), and Oliver (8 percent), with 20 percent undecided.
Another potential issue in the race is whether the two congressmen, Pallone from the 6th District and Holt from the 12th, are drawing on the other’s support. That does not appear to be the case, according to the poll which asked voters who they would support if their preferred candidate was not running. If Holt was out of the race, Pallone’s support would increase by 2 percentage points while Booker’s would go up by 4 points. If Pallone was out of the race, Holt’s support would increase by 3 percentage points while Booker’s would go up by 5 points.
The poll does show that a large number of Democratic primary voters remain undecided.
The race could turn into a close contest if a candidate other than Booker can sweep this undecided group. The poll, though, does not show much potential for this outcome.