The first formal announcement of New Jersey’s 2008 campaign cycle came from Congressman Michael Ferguson, who has absolutely ruled out a bid for the United States Senate against Frank Lautenberg. Some Republican insiders had hoped for an epic battle between the incumbent and the 36-year-old Republican, who was in the seventh grade when Lautenberg first won a U.S. Senate seat. Those insiders view Ferguson as a strong campaigner and fundraiser. Ferguson just narrowly held his House seat this year, winning 49%-48% over Assemblywoman Linda Stender in a bad Republican year. Stender, Democrats say, is eyeing an ’08 rematch. But the seventh district is overhelmingly Republican, and unless the political environment gets even worse for the GOP, Ferguson has probably already seen his worse case scenario. Had Ferguson lost to Stender, or had he run for the U.S. Senate, there was a good chance that State Senator Thomas Kean, Jr. would have run for the House instead. (He finished second in the 2000 primary, behind Ferguson.) Now the 38-year-old Kean must decide whether he is willing to chance a second statewide loss (something that usually signals the end of a political career) by running against Lautenberg — or even against the more conservative rivals in a contested Republican primary.