New Jersey - State of the Race

In just 25 days, New Jersey will hold its primary election for the next New Jersey Senator, and Cory Booker is in a strong position to prevail. Booker, however, faces one major obstacle —voter turnout for a mid-August election.  Recognizing the centrality of civic engagement, PAC+ has been hard at work developing cutting-edge initiatives to inform and engage New Jersey voters.

New Jersey 123

Because of the way Governor Chris Christie set up the special election (to avoid having Cory Booker voters turn out when Christie himself was on the ballot), New Jersey now has a confusing set of three different elections over the next four months. To help combat the confusion, the PAC+ team conceived and incubated an innovative, cross-platform, social media campaign called New Jersey 123. Targeting young people and people of color, NJ123 will popularize the importance of voting in each of the upcoming three elections. Having nurtured the project, PAC+ has now spun off NJ123 to our sister organization which will be responsible for carrying out the work from here.

PAC+ Independent Expenditure
The PAC+ team was proud to have created the country’s first SuperPAC in 2007 when we launched an independent effort to mobilize African American and Latino voters in support of then-Senator Barack Obama. You can read more about the 2007-2008 work here. We are proud to bring that successful model to New Jersey to help Mayor Booker become Senator Booker.

Looking at the areas that have historically had some of the lowest voter turnout, PAC+ will focus on five ‘Tier 1’ counties - Middlesex, Atlantic, Burlington, Gloucester, and Salem Counties - where we’ve identified 120,000 infrequent voters. Infrequent voters are individuals who did not vote in 2009 and 2008; voted for the first time in 2008; or are between the ages of 18-30 years old.

Within that universe, we’re implementing a voter identification program to call and identify a list of 25,000 to 40,000 supporters by July 24th. After identifying the supporters, we will mobilize for turnout activities such as phone banking, canvassing, and GOTV. Our goal is to include 16 touches into our GOTV program.

    • 3 Live Calls


    • 3 Door Knocks


    • 5 Mail Pieces


    • 5 Robo Calls


    • Social Media Tools

Our overall goal is to contact over 120,000 voters, identify 25,000 to 40,000 voters, and turnout 15,000 - 20,000 voters.

An analysis of the target counties and their vote potential is below:

State of the Race
With just 25 days to go in the race for U.S. Senate, Cory is in very strong position with the one stated area of concern - voter turnout.

Monday was the deadline for reporting Second Quarter fundraising results to the Federal Election Commission, and Cory has done exceedingly well. As of March 31st, Cory had $1.6 million in the bank, compared to Congressman Frank Pallone’s $3.7 million. And then, after the Special Election was called, a quirk in the law, barred from using funds previously raised in the upcoming special election, giving Pallone a significant advantage. As of June 30th, however, Cory had blown past Pallone (who had a surprisingly anemic fundraising quarter), and Cory now has $4.5 million cash on hand compared to Pallone’s $3.35 million. This strong balance sheet explains why Cory has been the first to air television ads thus far.

The dynamics of the race are working to Cory’s advantage in that having two respected Congressman as opponents has split the potential opposition. From progressive donors nationally to certain sectors of labor that could have coalesced against Cory, those forces are now either divided or taking a pass on the race entirely. And whereas many (including me) were worried that the Party bosses would work to undermine Cory, they have actually been lining up to endorse him, even in areas far from his Newark base.

In addition to his fundraising advantage, Cory continues to crush his opponents in the polls. From the January PAC+ poll to the Quinnipiac poll released last week, Cory leads by 40% or more, and the sand is running out of his opponents’ hourglasses. Which leads to the one great area of concern and vulnerability - voter turnout.

As the saying goes, the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, and it is entirely unpredictable who will turn out to vote on a mid-August day. And if the Gubernatorial Primary in June is any indication, turnout will be extremely low. Just 197,171 turned out to vote in the June Democratic primary, out of an electorate of 1.7 million Democrats.

Because turnout is the last big hurdle, and because Cory will have to spend the bulk of his money on television ads, our independent expenditure effort will focus on identifying and turning out Cory voters as an insurance policy for his election. As things now stand, Cory could take a huge step towards the United States Senate in just 25 days.

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