While the new Governor is taking office, the race for the governor's old Senate seat is taking shape. According to the most recent results of Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind poll, both Bob Menendez and Tom Kean, Jr. have seen a significant rise in their name recognition since September. Menendez' name recognition among New Jersey voters has jumped to 60% from just 36%. Kean's name recognition has increased to 62% from 46% in September.
Neither candidate for the federal Senate seat that Jon Corzine is giving up has much negative opinion to worry about at this point. Menendez' favorable to unfavorable ratio is 2:1. Kean's is 4:1.
But both men have yet to make an impression on many voters. Half of the 60% who say they've heard of Bob Menendez also say they have no opinion of him, favorable or unfavorable. Likewise, about half of the 62% who say they've heard of Tom Kean, Jr. say they haven't formed an opinion of him. “Campaigns do make a difference,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll, “and these campaign teams have an almost blank slate to work with.”
Asked whom they'd vote for if the Senate election were today, Kean gets 36% of the vote and Menendez gets 25%, but 37% say they don't know. “Not only is it early in the election cycle but neither of these candidates has ever mounted a statewide race,” said Woolley. “Both will have to introduce themselves to voters around the state.”
Even at this early date a majority of Republicans (57%) say they would vote for Tom Kean, Jr. This compares to a little more than a third (37%) of Democrats who say right now they would vote for Menendez. “If Kean has an advantage at this point, it is explained by the advantage he has in his party,” said Woolley. “The Kean name is known in the Republican Party. By contrast, Bob Menendez will be holding Corzine's seat and trying to build a brand name among Democrats around the state,” said Woolley. “Republicans are in the unusual position of having someone to rally around early in a statewide race--rather than going through another bruising primary, or nominating someone relatively unknown as has happened in recent years.”
The PublicMind poll of 707 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from January 3 through January 10 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
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