Quinnipiac: Lautenberg is vulnerable

Frank Lautenberg’s poll numbers are unimpressive, but will that matter in a Democratic state where Republicans have been unable to attract candidates to run against him?

After serving in the United States Senate for 22 of the last 24 years, Lautenberg has a 41%-32% approval rating.

More disturbing to the senior Senator is his 31%-42% re-elect number (26%-48% among Independents), and his mere seven-point lead (40%-33%) against a Republican in a generic ballot test. (Among Independents, Lautenberg trails by four points — 30%-34%.)

More than half of the New Jersey voters surveyed (54%) say that at 83-years-old, Lautenberg may be too old to serve in the U.S. Senate. Among Democrats, 48% say he is too old, while 44% say he is not. If he is re-elected to a fifth term in 2008, he would represent New Jersey in the Senate until he is 90-years-old.

A Montana State University poll in November 2005 showed Republican Senator Conrad Burns with a 48%-31% approval rating, and a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee poll in March 2006 had Burns at a 36% re-elect number, with 27% preferring someone new. Burns lost his seat to Democrat Jon Tester by a 47%-46% margin.

In Missouri, where Democrat Claire McCaskill defeated GOP incumbent James Talent, 46%-45%, Talent had a 49%-43% approval rating in a 49%-43% approval rating in a January 2006 Research 2000 poll. A Harstad Strategic Research poll in April 2005 gave Talent a re-elect number of 36%, with 34% preferring someone new.

So far, only three Republicans have said they are considering a race against Lautenberg: Assemblymen Michael Doherty and Joseph Pennacchio, and former New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Anne Evans Estabrook. More prominent Republicans, like Congressman Frank LoBiondo or State Senate Minority Whip Thomas Kean, Jr., the 2006 U.S. Senate nominee, have not made any moves to run. And Rep. Michael Ferguson and U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie have already taken themselves out of consideration.

Quinnipiac: Lautenberg is vulnerable