Matt Rooney for U.S. Senate?
Some Republicans contacted by the New Jersey Globe think the conservative pundit would make a strong challenger next year against U.S. Senator Cory Booker.
Rooney, a 33-year-old Camden County lawyer, is the founder of Save Jersey, a conservative blogger with a large following among Republican activists. He’s a regular commentator on Chasing New with Bill Spadea, which runs on Fox-owned affiliates in the New York and Philadelphia markets. He also appears regularly on Spadea’s NJ 101.5 morning radio show.
His admirers call him an articulate spokesman for core Republican values, and he seems to have a vision of where the state GOP should be headed in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 950,000.
“If Booker is on the national ticket and a candidate for reelection in the Senate, Rooney’s media savvy tactics and practical conservative message will have nationwide impact,” said Art Gallagher, who runs the Republican website More Monmouth Musings. “Rooney for U.S. Senate candidacy could give New Jersey Republicans a chance for a Senate victory for the first time in 42 years and put New Jersey’s electoral votes in play.
New Jersey Republicans haven’t won a U.S. Senate race since 1972. Last year, Bob Hugin won just 43% of the vote despite spending $36 million to unseat incumbent Bob Menendez.
The GOP isn’t going to beat Booker, but they still need a candidate — especially as they look to regain some of the House seats they lost last year.
Last year, the Legislature passed a new law that allows Booker to seek re-election to the Senate while simultaneously running for president or vice president.
Booker’s fledgling presidential campaign could work to Rooney’s advantage. A U.S. Senate candidacy could bring him added exposure as Booker steps up his national campaign. He could become the resident expert on Booker’s record as the mayor of Newark and as a U.S. Senator, at least from the Republican point of view.
Rooney could use a statewide campaign against a Democratic presidential candidate to enhance his own career as a professional pundit. The nomination could also position him for a federal appointment if Donald Trump wins re-election.
There is no doubt that Rooney would understand the race to be unwinnable. But others have used an impossible Senate race to their advantage.
David Norcross, then 39, became the sacrificial lamb against Harrison Williams in 1976. He won 38% of the vote, but impressed Republicans enough that Raymond Bateman picked him as Republican State Chairman in 1977. From that post, Norcross became general counsel to the Republican National Committee and a major GOP insider in Washington.
In 1984, Montclair Mayor Mary Mochary ran an uphill race against Bill Bradley. Her 35% was enough to get her a post at the U.S. Department of State during the Reagan administration.
The best example was in 1990, when Christine Todd Whitman offered herself as a sacrificial lamb against Bradley. She wound up nearly pulling off an upset and the race positioned her as the front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination three years later.
Rooney is already a frequent speaker at events throughout the state.
Tonight, he’ll be in Summit speaking to Republicans about the 2019 elections. After that, he’s at the Chatham Township Library to talk about the media.