Lautenberg may have bumpy ride on New Jersey ballot

NBy Kim Dinenberg

Daily Targum
Rutgers University

nEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Oct. 4 – With the substitution of Frank Lautenberg on the ballot for Sen. Robert Torricelli, Eagleton Institute of Politics experts at Rutgers University foresee a tough road ahead for both the Democratic candidate and Republican Douglas Forrester.

“With slightly over a month before Election Day, the campaigns have to do what they usually get done in a year,” said Gerald Pomper, a Board of Governors professor of political science at the institute.

Pomper, who specializes in American politics and elections, said the state senatorial race is a “fairly even contest” now, and both candidates have to start a whole new campaign.

“The Democrats have a strong candidate, with Lautenberg’s experience as a senator for three terms, but they are starting late and will have to completely reorganize,” Pomper said. “Lautenberg would have been the clear leader, if he had started from the beginning, but now the campaign may be subject to attacks on the substitution.”

Pomper said there is also the threat of the U.S. Supreme Court intervening in the campaign, but believes it is an unlikely event. Forrester also needs to reorganize his campaign, Pomper said. “His old campaign is now irrelevant. His platform was that he wasn’t Torricelli, but now that he is up against Lautenberg, there needs to be a new reason for running,” Pomper said.

Lautenberg has greater recognition than Forrester, Pomper said, and will need to mobilize the Democratic majority in the state. Both candidates will need to write new commercials and put out new messages.

“Forrester and his campaign now need to make it clear to the voters what kind of senator he would be, if elected,” said John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. “This would entail presenting some of his views on the issues and helping voters to understand where he stands on these issues. Forrester will likely comment that the late substitution was unfair to him, but it would not be a good idea to focus too heavily on that issue.”

Weingart said Forrester has talked to some extent on the issues, but needs to make them dominant in his campaign so voters can get a sense of his viewpoints. Lautenberg needs to address the issues to remind voters of his platforms.

“Lautenberg is the Doug Forrester of 1982. He was unknown. He won the nomination by spending his own money while running against a heavy favorite. Millicent Fenwick was Lautenberg’s opponent at the time, and Lautenberg argued that she was too old. She was 72 at the time, and now he is 78. He will certainly have to address these complicated issues,” Weingart said.