Poll: Christie has 18 point lead for GOP nomination

Former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie holds an 18 point lead, 50%-32%, over former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in the race for the Republican nomination for Governor, according to a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll released this morning. Assemblyman Rick Merkt (R-Mendham) is polling at 2%, with 16% still undecided.

Christie leads Lonegan 59%-25% among voters over age 60. He has a 63%-26% lead in Central Jersey, a 49%-33% lead in North Jersey, a 45%-33% lead in South Jersey, and a 44%-35% lead in Northwestern New Jersey. Christie has a 21 point lead in Morris County, and Lonegan leads by 10 points in Bergen County.

Lonegan leads 51%-36% among Republicans who describe themselves as "staunch conservatives," while Christie is ahead 58%-18% among moderates. Lonegan is just slightly more likely than Christie to be seen as a "pro-life" candidate (42% to 33%).

"Chris Christie has solidified his front-runner status in this primary by increasing his appeal to the party's core conservative base. He may not win this group outright, but he has made enough inroads to leave Steve Lonegan with little room to maneuver before June 2," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "Winning in November trumps any specific issue positions for Republican primary voters. For example, Mayor Lonegan's flat tax proposal has a good deal of support within the GOP electorate, but it doesn't seem to be enough to propel him to victory," said Murray.

Among Republicans, Christie has a 67%-12% favorable rating and Lonegan is at 54%-13%. Christie has approvals of 60%-20% among staunch conservatives, at 73%-6% among conservatives, and 66%-11% among moderates. Lonegan is at 69%-7% among staunch conservatives, 52%-10% among conservatives, and 39%-22% among moderates.

But three out of four Republicans don't feel they know much about either candidate's positions on specific issues.

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