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With Lautenberg exit, what are GOP chances to gain Senate seat?

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Still, the state’s top seat is occupied by a brash Republican governor, Chris Christie, who won the hearts of many of his constituents once – and is likely to do so again later this year in New Jersey's gubernatorial race.

“You have to recall we’ll be coming off a pretty clear Christie victory in 2013,” says Dr. Harrison. “Chris Christie is the embodiment of the Republican Party in this state … so … there is going to be this kind of surging Republicanism in the state of New Jersey.”

Nonetheless, she says, “No [Republican contender] is waiting in the wings so well qualified, well organized, ready to step into the role immediately to combat the fundraising prowess Democrats currently have, namely [Newark Mayor] Cory Booker.”

Of course, that hasn’t stopped some Republicans – and other Democrats – from drooling over the prospect of a Senate run in 2014.

Among the potential candidates lining up for Lautenberg’s seat:

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D). The clear front-runner, Mr. Booker formed a Senate campaign last month to explore a race. Opponents have said he considers himself the “heir apparent” to the seat. Indeed, when the mayor, who at 43 is less than half Lautenberg’s age, publicly expressed interest in running last month, Lautenberg said he deserved “a spanking” for openly coveting his seat before the sharp-elbowed senator had announced his retirement. Still, Booker is a favorite: A Quinnipiac poll shows Booker would have led Lautenberg 51 percent to 30 percent among likely Democratic primary voters.

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