Should it come down to a Democratic Senate primary next year in New Jersey between incumbent Frank Lautenberg and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a new survey suggests at this point, Booker would have the upper hand.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll of registered voters in the Garden State indicates that 42% of self-identified Democrats and Democratic leaners say they would prefer the two-term mayor, who's considered a rising star in the party, as the Democratic nominee, with 20% saying they would prefer Lautenberg.
Among all voters, Booker has a 66% favorable rating, 21 points higher than the 45% who say they see Lautenberg in a favorable light.
Lautenberg, who turns 89 this month, has not decided on whether he'll run for re-election in 2014.
Last month Booker announced that he would not challenge Republican Gov. Chris Christie in November's gubernatorial election, and instead said he would explore a Senate bid in 2014.
According to the poll, in a possible Democratic primary showdown next year, Booker would be favored among men, women, younger and older voters, and white and non-white voters.
"These numbers suggest that some difficult days may lie ahead for the incumbent senator should he seek reelection," said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "Senator Lautenberg's unfavorables, coupled with voter preferences for Booker as the Democratic standard bearer in the general election, complicate the landscape for this living legend amongst New Jersey politicians."
Earlier this week, Booker told CNN that he hasn't spoken with Lautenberg yet on whether the senator plans to run for re-election next year, and added that "I've announced my intention to run, but the reality is, is we've got a good senator, he's been loyal, he's been there a long time. And I think that he's got a decision to make."
But Booker said he wouldn't rush Lautenberg.
"I'm a guy who has deep respect and love for (Lautenberg)," added Booker on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" "This is a lion of our Senate. I'm going to give him that space. This is not the election year--not the year we should be talking about hypotheticals."
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was conducted January 2-6, with 700 registered voters in New Jersey questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.