A Bell-ringer in New Jersey
By George F. Will
Bell, now 70, is back. He won the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Cory Booker, 45, the Democratic former mayor of Newark who last October won a special election to serve the last year of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s term.
New Jersey last voted Republican for president in 1988; in 2012, Barack Obama carried it by 18 points; it has not elected a Republican senator since 1972. Booker, who has raised more than $16 million, is a prodigy at siphoning money from Wall Street. Bell is running this year’s most penurious Senate campaign, having raised and pretty much spent about $300,000. And this is an expensive state: To reach New Jersey voters, candidates for statewide offices must buy New York and Philadelphia radio and television time, which Bell cannot do.
Yet Booker’s lead is only in the low double digits — 13 points in theRealClearPolitics average of polls. In eight Senate races (Delaware, Hawaii,New Mexico, Oregon, Illinois, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia), Republicans are less competitive than Bell is. If Republican groups had given Bell the money they spent dragging Sen. Thad Cochran to re-nomination in Mississippi, Bell might be hot on Booker’s heels. He could still get there with a modest infusion of campaign contributions: Several polls have shown Booker’s support below 50 percent.