The presidential race is shaping up with several storylines and will understandably dominate the press and media coverage of the next 15 months. However, there are going to be multiple interesting races and secondarys storylines in another crucial election for the country and conversely both parties. One race that is currently under the radar, but might slowly emerge as a potential spotlight race by November 2012. That race involves U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
Menendez was appointed after then-U.S. Senator Jon Corzine was elected governor. Menendez used his incumbent advantage to essentially glide to an electoral victory over state Senator Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) in 2006. Kean is a potential challenger again and could be pitted in a rematch in 2012 against Menendez. The race between Menendez and whichever Republican candidate that primary voters choose might be a battle of an barely popular incumbent and a lackluster challenger.
Poll after poll continues to show Menendez polling below 45% in approval. Yet, his approval numbers do slightly best his disapproval ratings. The fact that he continues to poll below 50% is a major sign for any Republican and an open door if the right candidate is slated opposite Menendez next November.
A new Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll is showing a continued trend with Menendez’s approval a little more than a year away from his second reelection contest. The new poll shows Menendez garnering 37% approval to 32% disapproval with quite a bit of room still for voters to view him positively or negatively. Despite being one of the state’s two U.S. Senators; he still lacks major name recognition amongst voters.
Going further, his approval is at 38% amongst registered voters with 33% disapproving of him. Those numbers are down and up from a couple months ago when 46% approved of him and 28% disapproved of him. The poll’s results could simply be an ebb and flow of dead electoral time building up to the official start of the campaign with a challenger for Menendez voted upon.
As this new poll is being released, another underdog is likely considering throwing his name in the arena for the right to defeat Menendez next November. Roxbury councilman and founder and CEO of the Comprehensive Group Tim Smith is eyeing up a chance to become the next U.S. Senator from New Jersey.
According to Smith,
“I’ve built a very successful business, I know how to create jobs. I’ve proven that government can run more efficiently. I’m a businessman. I’m not a politician. At this point, I’m not announcing any candidacy. It’s something I’m considering, but I’m definitely not announcing anything.”
Smith’s candidacy; if he were to officially announce his intentions to run; would likely pair him up with Ian Linker, a Bergen County attorney, as outsider type candidates. Neither comes from political office and partially because of that face uphill odds of gaining the Republican nomination. That nomination was all, but formally packaged for John Crowley, a biotech CEO, before he decided to pursue more time with his family and stay in the private sector. Kean along with fellow state Senators Joseph Kyrillos (R-13) and Michael Doherty (R-23) have emerged as the most likely contenders to gain the Republican nomination, but the race is all but predictable and could change week to week.
Smith does have a history of targeting government expansion and has focused attention on government redundancy and waste.
This race continues to drag on and could be a major race featuring a potentially weak Democratic incumbent in a crucial year not only for President Barack Obama, but the Democratic Party as a whole. Republicans have a chance to slate an exciting challenger, who would be able to unseat Menendez. For now, they are struggling to find that right candidate and Menendez can continue to rest easy even with less than stellar poll numbers.