By David Cruz
With a week to go before primary Election Day, the candidates will have few opportunities to reach this many potential voters beyond a 60-second spot. Three of these candidates have debated several times, but tonight marks the first time for one of them, front-runner Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Congressman Rush Holt has been the most aggressive in targeting Booker, the consensus front-runner, but analysts say Booker will likely be in everyone’s sights tonight.
“You’re going to have Congressmen Pallone and Holt; they’re really going to attack Booker hard,” said Matt Arco of PolitickerNJ. “They’ve said a lot of things to attack Cory but they’ve never really attacked him head on, and I think we’ll see a lot of that tonight. Sheila Oliver will be doing much of the same.”
Politifax Editor Nick Acocella says there’s a reason Booker’s been reluctant to debate.
“There’s no percentage in it for the front-runner because all you can do is make a mistake,” said Acocella. “You’re leading by 30 points. You’re not going to add points by debating, so the other three candidates are the ones that have the most to gain. On the other hand, all [Booker’s] got to do is not make a mistake and he comes out a winner.”
With turnout expected to be less than 20 percent, only the most intense political junkies are likely to turn out Tuesday. So, what might they want to hear about from the candidates who want to succeed Frank Lautenberg?
“What they need to do to motivate voters is to really get down and talk about the issues, which is still jobs, not just in the urban communities but across the country,” said Newark community activist Louis Shockley.
The winner of next week’s special primary is expected to be a heavy favorite against either Republican — Alieta Eck or Steve Lonegan. That special election is set for October.
How much impact this debate will have on the outcome of the primary is, well, debatable, but this is the first time television viewers will be able to see all four candidates at the same table, and if there are any undecided Democrats out there, it might help them make up their minds who to vote for, if they decide to vote.