Monmouth Polling Director Says Booker Remains Frontrunner After Debate

Last night’s U.S. Senate Democratic Primary debate was the first to feature all four Democratic candidates. Newark Mayor Cory Booker went in with a commanding lead in the polls and Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said his opponents didn’t make enough of an impression to change that. Murray told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that Booker’s name recognition is huge and he is the clear frontrunner. He also discussed his organization’s recent poll about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and what the penalties should be.

Murray said Rush Holt, Sheila Oliver and Frank Pallone didn’t do enough to discredit Booker in the debate. “They really needed to come out with some really good sound bite that said Cory Booker isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be,” Murray said. “They really needed to say to those people who knew Cory Booker, had a favorable opinion of him, say that, ‘You think that he did all this good stuff as Newark mayor, but he really didn’t and also he doesn’t stand for the same things that you and I stand for as core Democrats.’ Because that’s who they’re appealing to — the core Democrats.”

According to Murray, Booker is the frontrunner because he is up by more than 30 points in every poll. He also called Booker’s name recognition “incredible.”

Murray said it would have been helpful for the candidates to ask the others where they stand, though he said that could have been limited because of the format of the debate. “A lot of it was kind of tangential mentions. For example, Frank Pallone went off on the Tea Party. He must’ve mentioned Tea Party about a dozen times. The idea there is I’m the guy who can fight the Tea Party. But he never laid out and the other guys can’t, the other candidates can’t,” Murray explained.

According to Murray, the four Democrats don’t want to run a nasty campaign with mudslinging. “I know all four of these candidates. They don’t want to really get deep down into the mud. And in fact, their supporters don’t want them to do that either. When we polled on this race, and we polled primary voters — people who actually vote in Democratic primaries — and they said, ‘You know, at the end of the day I’m not going to be entirely upset if my candidate doesn’t win because I like the other ones as well,'” he said.

The latest national Monmouth University Poll discusses the use of steroids in baseball. The timing comes just after Alex Rodriguez was suspended from Major League Baseball for 211 games.

Murray said the poll found eight in 10 Americans are following the use of performance-enhancing drugs by professional baseball players. Major League Baseball instituted new testing procedures and sanctions eight years ago. According to the poll, 40 percent say they are effective while 49 percent say they’re not with just 31 percent of respondents saying that use of PEDs has gone down since sanctions began. Seventy-five percent of respondents supported entire season bans and nearly two-thirds supported keeping them out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But just 33 percent supported a lifetime ban.

“So there’s a range of options there where tough sanctions — fine them, keep them out of the Hall of Fame, all those things. But they still balked at kicking them out of their playing career for the rest of their life,” Murray said.

Murray said he was somewhat surprised by the poll findings because he expected there would be more push-back against keeping players out of the Hall of Fame and having them lose their records than the lifetime ban.

“Let them earn their living I guess is the idea. Kick them out for a season or so — that’s fine. But let them back in. Maybe they learned their lesson,” Murray said.