National Republicans should think twice about devoting resources to challenge Sen. Frank Lautenberg, according political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.
Rothenberg, who publishes The Rothenberg Political Report, wrote an article in today’s issue of Roll Call in which he argued that Lautenberg’s recent underwhelming poll numbers are not likely signs of vulnerability, and that Republicans have little chance of putting his seat in play.
Rothenberg cited an Eagleton Institute poll from last month that had some troubling numbers for Lautenberg. According to the poll, only 24 percent of respondents thought that Lautenberg deserved another term, while 61 percent said it’s “time for a change.”
"The first problem with using these poll numbers to conclude that Lautenberg is at significant risk is that New Jersey poll numbers almost always are deceiving,” writes Rothenberg. “Incumbents invariably start their re-election campaigns with mediocre survey numbers because many state voters get much of their media from New York City or Philadelphia and aren’t especially attuned to the activities of their own Senators.”
Rothenberg pointed to a May, 2006 Quinnipiac poll in which Sen. Bob Menendez had a favorability rating of just 20 percent and an approval rating of just 34 percent. Yet he still managed to pull off a nine point victory against Tom Kean, Jr. in November. While acknowledging that Lautenberg is vulnerable on the age issue, with a majority of poll respondents saying he’s too old to effectively serve another term, Rothenberg downplayed its importance.
"We won’t know exactly where this race stands for months — until Republicans have a nominee and we see how the Iraq War stands. But whatever Lautenberg’s present or future vulnerabilities, he’s a Democrat running in a state and national political environment that favors Democrats,” wrote Rothenberg. “That gives Republicans no reason for even a shred of optimism”