Monmouth Polling Director Surprised By Strength of Christie’s Endorsement of Lonegan

Gov. Chris Christie made a public endorsement today of Steve Lonegan in his bid for U.S. Senate. While Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said he wasn’t surprised by Christie’s endorsement, he was surprised at how strong it was and the fact that the governor said he would be making more appearances with Lonegan before the Oct. 16 election.

Murray said Christie had to get behind Lonegan since he is the Republican in the race, but he didn’t expect to hear that the pair would be out in public more often. “I think many observers, myself included, thought that this might be the only time that we see the two of them together,” Murray said.

He explained that since Christie is involved in his own reelection bid, he thought the governor might stay away. “Steve Lonegan can be a bit of a wild card. We already saw that with a tweet that happened during the primary season that came out of his campaign that some saw as racist. And it was not so much the tweet but what Steve Lonegan said afterward about having a handicap of being a white man running for political office in New Jersey,” Murray said. “I thought Chris Christie might be a little worried about that.”

But Murray said if Christie has presidential aspirations, he had to endorse Lonegan to appeal to conservatives. “He just wants to make sure that he’s not tainted by anything that could be controversial as he looks to run up his 20-point win which he’s hoping to get in the Nov. 5 race for governor,” Murray said.

Christie has spoken against Lonegan’s opponent Cory Booker despite having worked together. “Steve Lonegan is trying to paint Cory Booker as a rubber stamp for President Obama and we heard Gov. Christie chime in on that as well. Gov. Christie has not shied away from going after President Obama even as he’s embraced him around the Sandy aid. And so I don’t think we’re going to see him shy away from getting in a few jabs against Cory Booker, who he’s worked with as mayor of Newark and they agree on a number of things,” Murray said. “But he’s gonna show his Republican Party bona fides in endorsing Steve Lonegan.”

The latest Monmouth University poll shows Booker ahead by 16 points with 80 percent of respondents saying they’re locked into their decision in the race. Murray said Christie’s endorsement of Lonegan likely won’t help Lonegan close the gap.

“Cory Booker’s favorable numbers have gone down a little bit because he got dinged a little bit in that primary. He’s gonna get dinged more by Steve Lonegan. But Cory Booker is also gonna bring it back to Steve Lonegan. So this race can still move, but which direction, we’ll have to see,” Murray said.