Geraldo Rivera Senate run more likely due to Lautenberg retirement?

Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey announced he will not run for reelection in 2014. Geraldo Rivera had already been making noises about challenging him.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey walks to the Senate floor from a Democratic caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday. Lautenberg has decided not to seek reelection on order to clear the way for Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Geraldo Rivera could be his Republican challenger.

Is it more likely today that Geraldo Rivera will run for US Senate in New Jersey? We ask that because Thursday Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey announced his retirement, and that means Geraldo would be competing for an open seat in 2014. In most circumstances open seat elections are more competitive than races which pit incumbents versus challengers. So it’s possible that the Garden State’s mustachioed muckraker has a gleam in his eye and more bounce in his handlebars this morning.

Or maybe not. We’ll get to that scenario in a minute.

First, were you even aware that Geraldo is thinking about tossing his bluster into the political arena? It’s true – several weeks ago on his mid-day radio show he announced that he’d been in touch with New Jersey Republicans and was contemplating a run for Senator Lautenberg’s seat.

“Fasten your seat belts,” he said.

Since then, he’s only sounded more serious about a run. He outlined some of his political views in a Fox News opinion article and it’s a list that pretty much makes him sound like a thinner Chris Christie. That means he’s a moderate Republican with a law-and-order edge.

We think that attaching himself to New Jersey Governor Christie’s hip would be his best electoral approach. Christie is perhaps the most popular governor in the country and Rivera, if he runs, would certainly love a close association.

The other day on Twitter, Rivera even got a twofer, both defending Christie and attacking the most likely Democratic candidate for the seat, Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

“Newark Mayor Corey Booker backhands Chris Christi by joining weight watchers to get to his ‘campaign weight’. I’m already fighting weight,” tweeted Rivera.

And of course Rivera is using his status as a media star to continue to drop hints about a race, either to ramp up real interest, or goose ratings. You decide.

For instance, interviewing Karl Rove on Fox last week, Rivera asked the GOP consultant/moneybags “when are you going to start vetting me in New Jersey?”

“When you get serious about being a candidate ... you’ve got to file a committee and go raise money,” said Mr. Rove.

Lautenberg’s impending retirement removes one formidable rival. Lautenberg, the only World War II veteran now in the Senate, decided to call it quits rather than seek a sixth term.

But Mayor Booker is young, media-friendly, and kind of an action politician – he’s saved a neighbor from a burning house, for instance. That means he might match up well with Rivera. Christie’s success notwithstanding, New Jersey is a pretty blue state.

And yesterday there was other news that might have put a droop in Rivera’s political attitude. According to at least one poll he’s not exactly lighting Garden State voters on fire.

The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press survey found that 65 percent of respondents said they would vote against Rivera. Only 26 percent said they would be somewhat or very likely to vote for him.

Even among Republicans, he isn’t a popular choice. Forty-eight percent of GOP respondents were negative on his candidacy, and 44 percent were positive.

So if Geraldo really is going to run, he’ll have to fire up his Harley and start traveling around the state to build support. Otherwise, his political future may turn out to be as empty as the famous Al Capone vault he opened on national TV.

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