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Whitman A Favorite In New Jersey

By Stuart Rothenberg

New Jersey Governor If the polls are accurate, New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman is a lock for re-election this November. But polls can change quickly, and a number of Democrats are already in the race, hoping to challenge the incumbent Republican this fall.

The top two Democratic candidates in the race are 1st District congressman Robert Andrews and state Sen. James McGreevey, both 39. Andrews, first elected to Congress in 1990, was a Camden County freeholder who ran for an open House seat when then-incumbent Jim Florio (D) ran for governor. His congressional district, located in the southwestern part of the state, includes the city of Camden. In addition to serving in the Legislature, McGreevey is the mayor of Woodbridge, a community in the eastern part of the state.

Hudson County executive Robert Janiszewski is also in the contest, and he could play a role in deciding who ultimately wins the Democratic nomination. But he isn't likely to be the nominee himself.

The one real wild card in the race, former governor Jim Florio, who lost to Whitman four years ago, took himself out of consideration over the weekend. Polling showed Florio with high name identification, but many voters still have an unfavorable opinion of him and he probably couldn't beat Whitman anyway.

The key to the Democratic nomination could be the county Democratic organizations, which decide on ballot position in the primary. That position could help put either Andrews or McGreevey over the top. So far, Andrews has been picked as the favorite by eight county organizations, while McGreevey is favored by nine county parties.

Andrews, who fashions himself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal, could well emerge as the favorite for the nomination. When Florio announced this weekend he wouldn't be a candidate for governor, he endorsed Andrews, and insiders are betting that Hudson County executive Janiszewski will soon pull out of the race, possibly indicating his support for Andrews, as well.

Whitman is a tough foe for any Democrat because she has cut taxes and benefits from a generally good economy. Her new budget increases funding for education and the environment, making it more difficult for Democrats to portray her as a single-issue governor.

A Quinnipiac College poll conducted in mid-February showed Whitman's job approval at 62 percent, with a disapproval at a relatively low 32 percent.

New Jersey is a competitive state that was carried by Bill Clinton and now-senator Bob Torricelli (D) last November. Democrats knocked off one GOP House incumbent, held onto one of their open seats, and almost snatched a strongly GOP-leaning open congressional seat. That's enough reason to give Democrats hope of beating Whitman.

But with the governor popular and the public more content and optimistic, it will be hard for any Democratic nominee to convince voters that it's time for a change. And that's why Whitman is favored.

GOP Sets Its Sights On Glenn's Seat

Ohio Senate It wasn't a huge surprise when Ohio Sen. John Glenn announced last week that he wouldn't seek another six-year term, but that announcement was still a blow to Democrats who have seen their party battered in two consecutive Senate elections.

Glenn, a former astronaut, saw his re-election percentage plummet to just 51 percent in 1992, and he would have had a difficult re-election race had he decided to seek a fifth term. Still, the Democrats would have a better chance of retaining the Senate seat if Glenn had opted to run again, instead of having to defend an open seat.

The Democrats' problems are magnified by the all-but-certain Republican candidate: Gov. George Voinovich. Voinovich, who ran for the Senate in 1988 but lost to Howard Metzenbaum (D), has made no secret of his interest in the Senate or of his intention of running for Glenn's seat next year, regardless of the Democrat's decision about seeking another term.

Although the governor is far from flashy and has, at times, even angered Republicans by supporting tax measures, he is very popular. He was easily re-elected as governor in 1994.

Without Glenn, the Democrats are likely to have a primary to select their nominee. Cuyahoga County officeholder Mary Boyle, who lost the 1994 Democratic Senate primary in 1994, is still interested in the Senate and is widely expected to announce for Glenn's seat. But other names are mentioned, including former governor Richard Celeste and former congressman Dennis Eckart.

Democrats won't concede Glenn's seat easily. And Republicans shouldn't take it for granted. But if the Democrats have a leg-up in Indiana with the retirement of Sen. Dan Coats (R), the GOP has a clear advantage in Ohio with Glenn's exit.

Spotlight Archives:

Pennsylvania's 15th C.D. Looks Competitive (12/09/97)
In Idaho, A Rare Opportunity For Dems (11/19/97)
Stay The Course (11/6/97)
Car-Tax Issue Lifts Gilmore In Virginia (10/23/97)
New Jersey Governor's Race Down To The Wire (10/9/97)
Idaho Scramble: Who's Running For What? (9/25/97)
Hawaii's 1st C.D. Looks Like A Powder Keg (9/10/97)
Molinari's Departures Leaves Opening For Dems (8/25/97)
Georgia Governor's Race A Free-For-All (8/12/97)
Rep. Jon Fox Faces A One-Two Punch (7/30/97)
Sen. Hollings Prepares For A Fifth Term (7/22/97)
The House: Looking Ahead To 1998 (7/15/97)
Sen. Bond Has Re-election Edge (7/7/97)
Bumpers' Decision Encourages GOP (7/3/97)
Kentucky Senatorial Race A Toss-Up (6/24/97)
Nevada's Senator Reid Looks Like An Early Favorite (6/17/97)
1998 Gubernatorial Ratings (6/17/97)
Indiana's Evan Bayh Could Reclaim His Father's Old Senate Seat (6/3/97)
Who Will Control The House After '98? (5/30/97)
New Mexico's 3rd District: Color It Republican Green (5/20/97)
Don't Look For Many Senate Retirements In '98 (5/13/97)
Louisiana Senate, 1996: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over (5/5/97)
Rothenberg's Senate Re-election Ratings (4/25/97)
Dem, GOP Tests In Connecticut, Arizona (4/9/97)
Don't Count Al D'Amato Out Yet (3/25/97)
Whitman A Favorite In New Jersey (2/25/97)
Sen. Boxer Could Be Vulnerable (2/11/97)
Impressive Bloodlines In Minnesota Governor's Race (1/28/97)
Looking Ahead To '98 Gubernatorial Races In California, Florida (1/23/97)
Rothenberg's Senate Ratings (1/23/97)
Family Feud: The Fight for RNC Chairman (1/10/97)

Spotlight 1996

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