What’s next for Junior?

Thomas Kean, Jr. lost his bid for the United States Senate by eight percentage points. Some may argue that the loss was not Kean’s fault: George W. Bush and the Iraq war made it a bad year to run as a Republican in a Democratic state that has sent Democrats to the U.S. Senate in each of the last eleven opportunities; others will argue that Bob Menendez’s weakness on ethics issues — national exit polls showed that more voters were moved by “corruption and ethics in government than any other issue, including the war” — should have given him the win. The scion of one of New Jersey’s most venerable political families — his father was a two-term Governor, his grandfather a ten-term Congressman, and other relatives served in the U.S. Senate and the Continental Congress — had been short-listed for statewide office since he won a seat in the State Assembly in 2001. While the Kean family tradition is to lose a statewide race before winning one, some Republican leaders aren’t certain they want Kean Jr. as their standard bearer again — at least not right away. Kean has several options: he can challenge U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg in 2008, run for Governor against Jon Corzine in 2009, or even position himself to run for Lieutenant Governor that year. One GOP County Chairman wants Kean to challenge Leonard Lance for State Senate Minority Leader (there is no shortage of Republicans advocating a change in the Senate GOP leadership) saying the 38-year-old legislator should not necessarily rush into another statewide bid; that party leader suggested that Kean Jr. prepare for a 2012 rematch with Menendez or a 2013 run for Governor — a move that would assume Corzine’s re-election.

What’s next for Junior?