Menendez, Lautenberg wait to endorse

By MAX PIZARRO
PoliticsNJ.com

NEWARK – New Jersey’s United States Senators were coy on Monday when about who they would like to see as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008.

“I’m very happy with my job now,” Sen. Robert Menendez said with a laugh. “Oh, you mean, who do I like among the existing candidates?”

That’s right.

Menendez wouldn’t commit to anyone.

“They’re all incredibly talented,” he said.

What about Gov. Bill Richardson, who would be the country’s first Latino president?

“We are gifted with a deep field of candidates,” said Menendez.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, chairing Monday’s hearing on chemical plant safety, also says he won’t back anyone at this juncture, arguing there’s no point in lifting a gloved hand before the fighting begins.

“It’s like the old Golden Gloves boxing tournaments,” said Lautenberg. “You’ve got to come up the hard way in presidential politics. You have to go through the whole tournament: the prelims and the semis, in order to get to the finals.”

Menendez also stayed away from calling a winner in a potential State Senate match-up between Assemblyman Brian Stack, the Mayor of Union City; and Assemblyman Sal Vega, who is also the Mayor of West New York.

“I’m out of local politics,” the senator said. “That’s a subject for my friends in Hudson County to figure out.”