Could McNerney beat Garrett?

If Democrats really wanted to get serious about ousting Congressman Scott Garrett next year, they would recruit Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney to run. In the fifth district towns, McNerney won 54% of the vote in his 2006 re-election campaign against Republican Todd Caliguire (and 60% countywide), and carried 23 of the 36 municipalitie in Garrett’s district. A recent Democratic poll in Bergen County shows him with job approval ratings countywide at over 60%.

McNerney would still have a tough race — it’s fair to note that Garrett is a much stronger candidate than Caliguire was. But he would be a first-tier candidate, and would likely make the race interesting.

Garrett defeated Paul Stuart Aronsohn in 2006 by a 55%-44% margin, with Garrett winning Bergen County — where 63% of the votes come from — by a 51%-48% margin. While ’06 was a strong Democratic year, Aronsohn, a former aide to Governor James E. McGreevey, had little name identifcation and had only recently moved into the fifth district. And despite his pledge to raise $2 million, the Rotarian-American spent just $554,555 — about half of what Garrett did. As the County Executive of the state’s largest county, and as a member of a powerful political machine, McNerney (who does not have to run for re-election until 2010) could presumably outraise the three-term Republican Congressman.

Could McNerney beat Garrett?