The fight to retain the congressional seats for North Jersey Democrats is shaping up to be tougher than two years ago.
The Monmouth University Poll released April 23 found voters are evenly divided between Republican (46%) and Democratic (45%) candidates in the five most competitive congressional districts—2, 3, 5, 7 and 11.
Those seats are currently held by Republican Jeff Van Drew and Democrats Andy Kim, Josh Gottheimer, Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill, respectively. All but Gottheimer won for the first time in 2018, while Van Drew switched party affiliations in January.
“Democratic incumbents in New Jersey’s ‘blue wave’ districts face a tough challenge heading into November,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The terrain does not look quite as friendly as it did two years ago even with a strong performance by their party at the top of the ticket this year.”
At the same time in 2018, Democrats held an aggregate seven-point edge in these districts (49% to 42%), going on to win the seats by nine points (54% to 45%) that November.
Statewide, the picture looks positive with 50% of voters saying they will back the Democratic candidate in their congressional district and 38% who will support the Republican. This margin is slightly narrower than a Monmouth University Poll conducted at this same point in the 2018 cycle.
Democratic candidates held a statewide 54%-35% generic House vote advantage in April 2018, which increased on Election Day when Democrats won the cumulative statewide House vote 60% to 39%. Democrats currently hold a 56% to 31% lead in the seven safest districts—six held by a Democrat—which is nearly identical to their 27-point advantage in April 2018.
At the top of the ticket, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker hold substantial leads among New Jersey voters in their races for President and U.S. Senate, respectively.
In the race for the White House, Biden holds a 16-point advantage over President Donald Trump among registered voters in New Jersey (54% to 38%). Self-described Democrats support Biden by a 93% to 3% margin and Independents are backing the former vice president 51% to 36%. Republicans support Trump by a 92% to 6% margin.
Booker Looks Strong
In the race for U.S. Senate, Booker—who beat Jeff Bell by 14 points in 2014—holds sizable leads over his Republican challengers Hirsh Singh (58%-33%) and Rik Mehta (55%-32%).
Murray noted the size of Booker’s lead is not “unusual” accounting for the Republican nominee has not been decided. New Jersey’s primary will be held July 7, pushed back a month by Gov. Phil Murphy due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The race could tighten once voters start paying attention, but that won’t happen until the fall,” said Murray. “Still, the fact that a clear majority support Booker’s reelection regardless of the opponent is good news for the incumbent.”