Recent polls in the New Jersey Senate race from Quinnipiac (July 2-7), Rasmussen (June 12-13) and Monmouth (June 10-11) show pretty much the same things. One is that Newark Mayor Cory Booker will be elected senator in the October. He gets more than 50% in Democratic primary pairings while other candidates struggle to get to double digits, and he gets well over 50% against any of the Republicans running. All the other candidates have less than 50% name identification and no good way to overcome that; New Jersey is the second most expensive state in the nation for television advertising because you have to buy the New York and Philadelphia markets, which together have a population about the same as the state of Texas.
But there's another common finding that I find interesting. When pollsters pair the low-name-identification Democrats against the low-name-identification Republicans, the two candidates get about the same percentages - well below 50%. This in a state that voted 58%-41% for Barack Obama in 2012. This suggests that in a generic Republican-Democratic contest, Republicans would be in almost as good a shape as they were in 2010, when they carried the popular vote for the House in New Jersey by 50%-48%, rather than in 2012, when Democrats carried the popular vote for the House in the state by 55%-44%.
Possible explanations: Obama's numbers are down in this state, as they are nationally, from where they were in November 2012, and Governor Chris Christie's widespread popularity is making his party at least less unacceptable to New Jersey voters than it was then. Explanation one seems likely to be operating in other states, explanation two only in states with widely popular Republican governors, of which there are few. Caveat: In all these polls, larger than average percentages of blacks are undecided in the low-name-identification contests, and that is likely true of Hispanics also, though numbers are not displayed, presumably because of small sample size. These undecided, if they turn up and vote, are likely to vote heavily Democratic, adding a couple of points to the party's total.
All of which, put together with the recent trend toward Republicans in the generic ballot for House of Representatives, suggest that the Republican Party is in somewhat better shape than it was last winter and the Democratic Party in somewhat worse shape.
Michael Barone,The Washington Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Monday and Thursday at washingtonexaminer.com.