Published February 22, 2013
“If the election for United States Senator were being held today and the candidates in New Jersey were Cory Booker the Democrat and Geraldo Rivera the Republican… Republicans back Rivera 54-23 percent over Booker.”
Since I did beat Booker among registered Republicans, that could have been the headline of the Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday February 21, 2013.
Instead, the pollsters chose the more traditional approach. Citing Booker’s dominance “among all other political, gender, income, age and regional groups in the state,” they write, “If TV personality Geraldo Rivera is just testing the water for a U.S. Senate run in New Jersey, he might find that the water is colder than the Atlantic Ocean in February.”
The meteorological metaphoric point missed by the highly regarded New York-based Quinnipiac pollsters, but not by this New Jersey-based seafarer is that the warm Gulf Stream runs just off the Jersey Shore, even in February 2013; as it will when the election is held in November 2014.
Stating the obvious, a year and nine months is a long way away. Moreover, Thursday’s poll results, showing the Newark mayor beating me 2-1 among all voters in a hypothetical matchup for Senate, misses certain other relevant points.
Unlike Mayor Booker, a fine man and tireless campaigner, I have never run for office. Moreover, until I stated publicly two weeks ago in these pages that I was considering a run for the seat being vacated by retiring Senator Frank Lautenberg, most New Jersey voters didn’t even know that I am a registered Republican. The fact that GOP voters given the option choose me over the omnipresent Mayor Booker is a source of pride and a place to begin building a viable candidacy, if I decide to take the plunge into the perennially roiling waters of Jersey politics.
Without deep scrutiny, I assume there are vast areas where the mayor and I agree. Certainly on most social issues, like gay marriage and the pressing need for comprehensive immigration reform. On abortion rights, I again assume we are on nearly the same page. Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land, although I believe very late-term and partial-birth procedures should be severely circumscribed unless there is profound justification.
That caveat aside, neither the mayor nor I want Uncle Sam in the bedroom.
So aside from personality, selecting the senator should depend on economic and tax policy, and what the candidates believe is the appropriate relationship between the citizenry and the federal government.
Taking nothing away from the mayor’s eager and earnest approach to public service, New Jersey voters will ultimately be called upon to choose between someone who represents the Democrat’s philosophy of government as surrogate parent, and the Republican’s philosophy of government as safety net. They are different.
In broad strokes, one is the party of profligate compassion paid for with other people’s money; the other styles itself the party of self-reliance, social responsibility and the individual freedom to be all you are capable of becoming.
If in the thrall of public and private sector unions, and enthusiastically backed by the organized elderly, would a Senator Booker have the wherewithal to vote to raise the retirement age, require enhanced contributions to pension and health benefits, or otherwise contain the unsupportable entitlements that are on course eventually to bankrupt the nation? I would. As future deficits loom ever larger, would he break with Democratic orthodoxy on public spending and regulatory creep? Would he oppose future tax increases or proposed public works projects that work for the special interests but not quite as effectively for the people of New Jersey? I would.
As a militantly moderate Republican, I would also work for bipartisan cooperation on tax policy. I would advocate the closing of the obscene and reckless loopholes that allow too many profitable corporations to avoid taxes altogether. I would support policies that encourage the repatriation of foreign profits by U.S. businesses, perhaps with a partial tax amnesty. Likewise, I would be for maintaining current rates on ordinary and investment income, and would fight vigorously against any increase of the death tax on savings and investments already taxed during life.
In its state-by-state analysis of possible senate contests, The New York Times referred to me Wednesday as “the former TV talk show host.” I am that, and did get my nose broken in a rumble with the skinheads, and did find nothing inside Al Capone’s vault but an empty Gilbey’s Gin bottle, etc. etc. The Quinnipiac poll called me a “Television personality,” which is true too.
But I’m also a veteran investigative reporter and battle-tested war correspondent with deep, personal ties to the United States military. (Were any service members or their families surveyed by Quinnipiac?) I won a Peabody Award for playing a key role in the liberation of the developmentally disabled from the grim institutions that existed before the closing of Willowbrook. And for better and worse, I’ve been part of the American conversation for as long as the mayor of Newark has been alive. I’ve earned the right to continue pondering the awesome possibility of running for the United States Senate from New Jersey, even if pollsters continue to bury the lead.