Cory Booker, the popular mayor of Newark, New Jersey seems nigh unbeatable in the upcoming race for the Senate seat, left open by the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Booker is the one bright star that Democrats across the country point to when they speak of the next generation of Democrat politicians. His overwhelming popularity in Newark, and in the state of New Jersey, mask the obvious “but” – it is New Jersey and in New Jersey most Democrat politicians poll well. Even the prodigiously popular Governor Chris Christie fears the influence of Booker in a statewide race. He recently scheduled the special election to replace Lautenberg, just three weeks before his own attempt at reelection, likely so that he wouldn’t need to worry about Booker’s “coattails”.
Any Republican gutsy enough to stand up against Booker would face almost insurmountable odds and an overwhelming amount of money.
Enter Geraldo Rivera. Rivera, the erstwhile Fox News commentariat, whose long and storied career has seen its ups and downs, is nonetheless a popular and well-known figure in American pop culture. His most celebrated days may be behind him, but he still carries some prominence and election to political office may not be far-fetched. He got some New Jersey Republicans pretty excited at the thought of a potential run earlier this year when he posted this to his twitter account.
Wondering how folks feel about me running in N.J. under GOP banner against either Lautenberg or Booker for U.S. Senate?
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) January 31, 2013
The very thought that a famous “journalist” (who has built in credibility with the voters), with a well-known name and likely pretty deep pockets would be willing to stand up and face down the political juggernaut that is Cory Booker got a lot of Garden State Republicans very excited. Maybe Geraldo isn’t the perfect ideological candidate fitting in to the left of most Republicans in the Senate, but he isn’t a Democrat… and he’s certainly not a Democrat wunderkind who is being heralded as the future leader of the Party. If New Jersey Republicans could deliver a knockdown blow to the Democrats latest “messiah” it could go a long way to deconstructing the mythology that is building up around Mayor Booker.
Alas, it’s not to be. Geraldo recently announced via video and column at Fox News Latino that he would not be running against Mayor Booker for the open Senate seat from New Jersey. He wrote in his column that he and his family did not feel up to the task of facing such a formidable adversary and compared his quest to that of Theoden, King of Gondor, in Lord of the Rings – going out on what is essentially a suicide mission in the face of a superior force. Perhaps a bit melodramatic, Geraldo. While not altogether a heartbreaking moment, it does take some wind out of the sails of national Republicans who were hoping for an improbable victory in October. Now, it is likely that Booker will end up facing some sacrificial lamb that the state Republican Party finds who won’t mind fighting this quixotic venture. It’s too bad – I bet Senator Rivera would have made for a very interesting politician.