U.S. Senate Contest: Booker insists he's competing for every vote against scrappier Lonegan

By Max Pizarro | October 7th, 2013

by headlines depicting him as a tweeter not a fighter, a somewhat amused Newark Mayor Cory Booker this morning answered to the charge that he’s dispassionately sleepwalking, or at least night jogging, toward Election Day next Wednesday.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” insisted the Democratic nominee competing in next Wednesday’s special election for U.S. Senate. “We have to earn every single vote.”

Up by 12 over Lonegan in the last public poll with the Republican challenger trending in the right direction, Booker has run a campaign that has gone heavy on sweat suits with adoring fitness freaks.

“He has a relatively slow pace,” an insider commented whenPolitickerNJ.com asked about the U.S. Senate candidate’s campaign.

The operative had just literally come off a jog with Booker. “Fun,” was the best way he could sum up the experience in a word.

The candidate has also spent a relative bare bones $451,000 with $9 million in the bank, going negative for the first time last week after the latest poll showed the Democrat slipping but still in front.

This morning, a typically ebullient Booker took fewer than a handful of questions at Irving Turner Park in a firefighter setpiece complete with rigs pulled out of the bays as he reiterated his argument that his Republican opponent, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, is a fringe player.

“I’m running against an opponent that has views that fall way out of the (mainstream) of his own party,” said Booker.

PolitickerNJ.com asked him if his Wladimir Klitschko-like, safety-first campaign performance hadn’t helped transform his opponent into a hungry underdog who, agree or not with his ideas, appears to be admirably clawing for every polling digit.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source who’s a Booker fan told PolitickerNJ.com that the candidate dangerously tuned out Lonegan sufficiently to enable the challenger to look like a sympathetic figure who wants to win.

“New Jersey likes a fighter – even if I disagree with everything he stands for,” said the source, who contrasted Booker’s jog-centric campaign with Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s fervent performance against Democratic challenger state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18).

“The contrast is remarkable,” the source said. “Booker let Lonegan into the contest, which Christie never allowed Buono to do.”

At the outdoor lectern, Booker disagreed with the premise of the question, but again kept his focus on Lonegan’s substance.

“My opponent thinks the government shutdown is a good thing and wants it to continue until he says he gets elected so he can fix it,” Booker said. “I think the government shutdown is bad thing.”

A source close to the mayor and operating within the campaign told PolitickerNJ.com on the night Booker won the Democratic Primary that the strategy would be to stay away from the Republican movement conservative. “It’s a blue state, and Lonegan’s crazy, so we don’t want to get pulled into a dogfight,” the source said. 

That so-called craziness in the world of many political insiders is coming across as scrappiness, but Booker appears to trust that his combination of brand name and blue state comfort zone will prevail.

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