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Morning After Clinton Speech, Speculation Begins Over Lautenberg’s Senate Seat

9-6-12

Bill Clinton’s speech was on everyone’s mind at this morning’s New Jersey delegation breakfast.

“We were all up late last night watching Bubba hit a home run,” Ernie Meyer, IBEW President Local 94.

Clinton last night was so “into” his speech, he didn’t want to slow down for applause, telling the audience to “listen up” more than once. Assemblywoman Grace Spencer said that while the former President is always good, he was better than ever last night.

Notorious for giving lengthy speeches, the former president was true to form in delivering his 48-minute speech. But delegates didn’t seem to mind. “It’s long but you love every minute of it,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan, citing Clinton’s charm, wit, humor and substance.

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On the local front, there was buzz about Frank Lautenberg’s U.S. Senate seat. People are wondering whether the 88-year old senator will run again in 2014. “Oh, I expect to run again as long as the need is there,” said Lautenberg.

Lautenberg says he’s healthy and has more work to do. But it’s not preventing speculation over possible challengers in a Democratic primary. Newark mayor Cory Booker’s name comes up frequently. Lautenberg recently criticized Booker for being AWOL at an event in Newark, saying “I was disappointed that he couldn’t be standing there with me as we provided funds for a new community health center in Newark, very important.” When Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron asked if he was saying Booker is an absentee mayor, Lautenberg replied “No, you just said it.”

“I think he knew the moment he said that I was actually leading the party platform committee in Detroit, doing the business of the party, of him and the rest of us,” said Booker. “So people want to make a lot of differences, a mountain out of a mole hill. The US Senator is good to me, he’s good to Newark. He’s an ally of mine on the issues that matter and this is an election that is two years away.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney is also in the game. “I have expressed an interest,” he said. “I know Cory has mentioned an interest.”

Sweeney and Lautenberg clashed this spring over the university merger issue. Lautenberg had asked the U.S. Education Secretary to step in without consulting Sweeney.

Still smarting from Lautenberg’s actions, Sweeney described the move as political. “That’s all I can think that it possibly could have been, [Lautenberg] went out and launched on everyone without even picking up the phone. I mean, I’m not the enemy.”

Lautenberg bristled at the idea that he should have consulted with Sweeney. “Why on earth would I go to Steve Sweeney to find out whether or not we’re gonna throw away a ton of money?” he asked indignantly.

Frank Lautenberg says he loves being a U.S. Senator. Whether the long knives are out for him, it’s still too early to say.

Reporting from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron files this report.


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