Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., may want to spank Cory Booker, but a new poll from Quinnipiac University shows Lautenberg on the receiving end of a spanking in a Democratic primary match-up with the Newark mayor.
Booker leads Lautenberg, 51 percent to 30 percent, among Democratic voters. While Lautenberg hasn't announced whether he'll seek reelection next year, Booker filed to run for the seat earlier this month, prompting criticism from the Lautenberg camp and other state Democrats.
Lautenberg, who turns 89 Wednesday, remains well-liked within his party. His favorability rating among Democrats (62 percent favorable/12 percent unfavorable) is similar to Booker's (68 percent favorable/5 percent unfavorable). Seventy-one percent of Democrats approve of the way Lautenberg is handling his job, while only 11 percent disapprove.
But concerns about the senator's age are holding him back in the race against the 43-year-old Booker. Told that Lautenberg would be 90 at the beginning of his next term, 70 percent of Democrats said they think Lautenberg's age makes it difficult for him to do the work required of a senator. Only 24 percent said Lautenberg's age helps him have the experience and wisdom to do a good job. Overall, 48 percent of Democrats said Lautenberg deserves to be reelected, while 29 percent said he doesn't and 23 percent were undecided.
If Lautenberg decides to retire, Booker likely won't have the primary field all to himself. Rep. Frank Pallone is reportedly mulling a bid, though he was not included in the poll. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, another potential candidate who has had harsh words for Booker recently, is largely unknown, according to the poll. Thirty percent of Democrats approve of her job performance, while 9 percent disapprove and 61 percent are undecided.
The Quinnipiac poll, conducted Jan. 15-21, surveyed 615 registered Democrats. The poll carries a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points.