With less than a month until the general elections, Democrats have the edge over the Republicans in most of the important contests on the national stage.
In the year after presidential elections, voters in New Jersey and Virginia head to the polls for gubernatorial contests while mayoral elections are held in New York City.
Added to the mix this year is a special election for a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey. Polls show Democrats are well-positioned to expand their majority in the U.S. Senate next week as Newark Mayor Cory Booker has a solid lead over former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate, in a special election in New Jersey. The seat is currently held by U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, R-N.J., who was appointed to the seat after the death of longtime U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Earlier this week, polls from Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports found Booker with a solid lead over Lonegan. Both polls found Booker beating Lonegan 53 percent to 41 percent. A poll from the Stockton Polling Institute released on Wednesday afternoon found Booker up by a similar margin, 50 percent to 39 percent.
While they are underdogs, conservatives are doubling down in their efforts to beat Booker, who appears to be a rising star for Democrats, this weekend as former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and the Tea Party Express are holding an event for Lonegan. The Tea Party Express will be endorsing Lonegan at an event in New Egypt on Saturday and Palin is scheduled to attend.
We are excited to be joining local tea party activists in support of Steve Lonegan, said Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of the Tea Party Express, on Wednesday. "With the Democrat-controlled Senates proven unwillingness to act to solve anything, it is important that we elect representatives who can solve problems.
Unlike Democrat Cory Booker, who will be a rubber stamp for the liberal policies for President Barack Obama, Steve Lonegan has demonstrated a passion for fighting against the increasing size, cost, and intrusiveness of government, Kremer added. As the mayor of Bogota, N.J., Steve cut city spending, shrank the city bureaucracy, and made its operation more efficient.
As a grassroots activist at the state level, Steve fought against an 8 percent sales tax increase and a huge toll-road hike, Kremer continued. And he won. His thoughtful and deliberate approach to leading makes him the best candidate for New Jersey.
While Booker appears headed for a big victory, Gov. Chris Christie should give Republicans something to cheer about in the Garden State. Christie, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential hopeful in 2016, appears headed to a big victory over Democratic rival state Sen. Barbara Buono in November.
Quinnipiac released a poll on Thursday which found Christie taking 62 percent while Buono can only muster 33 percent, despite New Jersey usually being a Democratic state.
Maurice Carroll, the director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, noted that Christie was making inroads with female voters who usually lean Democratic.
"Is sisterhood kaput in this election?" Carroll asked. Senator Barbara Buono has been out front on women's issues long before she was a candidate, but Governor Christopher Christie has a huge 23-point lead among women voters, part of his 2-1 dominance overall. Maybe their debate will boost her recognition, but one third of New Jersey voters still don't know enough about Senator Buono to make an up-or-down decision."
Carroll noted the poll showed New Jersey voters overwhelmingly backed same-sex marriage, which Christie opposes. The Quinnipiac poll of 1,144 New Jersey voters was taken from Oct. 5-7 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent.
Rasmussen released a poll on Wednesday which finds Christie up by a smaller margin but still with a commanding lead, beating Buono 55 percent to 34 percent. The Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely New Jersey voters was taken on Oct. 7 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
But if Republicans can cheer about Christie heading for a big win, the GOP appears in poor shape across the Hudson River. Polls show Democrats are poised to win their first mayoral election in New York City since David Dinkins beat Rudy Giuliani back in 1989. A Quinnipiac poll released in early October finds New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the Democrat, far ahead of Republican Joseph Lhota. The Democrat took 71 percent while Lhota lagged far behind at 21 percent.
Republican hopes of keeping the governors mansion in Virginia also seem to be fading. Quinnipiac released a poll on Thursday which finds former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe taking 47 percent against Republican nominee Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who follows with 39 percent. One wild card in the mix is Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, who gets 8 percent.
"Terry McAuliffe's strategy has been to paint Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as too conservative to be Virginia's next governor, said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, on Thursday. Today, almost half of Virginia voters agree, more than the 38 percent who say McAuliffe is too liberal.
"With less than a month to go until Election Day, McAuliffe is doing better among Democrats than Cuccinelli is among Republicans, Brown added. McAuliffe and Libertarian Robert Sarvis are denying Cuccinelli the domination among independents he needs for victory. To get back in the race, Cuccinelli must bring back into the fold Republican defectors and pull in more independent voters -- a tough task this far into the campaign."
The Quinnipiac poll of 1,180 likely Virginia voters was taken from Oct. 2-8 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent.
Elections held in the year after presidential contests can sometimes set the stage for future elections. For example, the 1993 elections proved a precursor for major Republican gains in 1994 when the GOP won the U.S. House for the first time in 40 years and regained control of the Senate after eight years. In 1993, Giuliani beat Dinkins in a rematch while George Allen became the first Republican governor of Virginia in 12 years. In New Jersey, Republican Christine Todd Whitman defeated incumbent Democrat Gov. Jim Florio.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @KevinDerbySSN.