The last time things looked as dire for a New Jersey Democrat as they do right now for Jon Corzine was around this time in 2002 for Robert Torricelli. The looming possibility of his losing to Doug Forrester resulted in him being dropped off the ballot and replaced by Frank Lautenberg, who won a relatively comfortable victory.
With that history in mind, we decided to look and see whether the party would be in better shape for the Governor's race with Frank Pallone or Cory Booker as the nominee instead of Corzine.
The answer with Pallone is a definite no. Voters might not be happy with the leadership in Trenton right now but they don't think a DC politician is the answer. Just 14% of voters in the state say they have a favorable opinion of Pallone and he trails Chris Christie 43-23 in a possible contest, with Chris Daggett pulling 15%.
Pallone would probably end up doing better than that if he actually was the nominee since he would have a chance to better familiarize himself with voters, but with only seven weeks until election day that's not going to happen this year.
Booker is a far more intriguing possibility. 41% of voters view him favorably, nine points better than Corzine, and only 20% have an unfavorable opinion of him, 40 points lower than the current Governor. Booker's popularity is such that he's even viewed positively, 29/27, by a small plurality of Republicans. He's only the fifth Democratic politician PPP has found that to be the case for across the entire country in 2009.
It doesn't look like Booker's race would be an issue. 40% of whites view him favorably compared to 21% unfavorable. That's far better than Corzine's numbers (25/67) and Barack Obama's (37/55). And while Booker may have been accused in some quarters of being an 'Uncle Tom' during his campaigns for mayor of Newark, only 5% of African Americans statewide have a negative opinion of him.
All that being said Booker polls only slightly better than Corzine against Christie, trailing 41-33 to 13% for Daggett. Voters seem to be sending a message to Democrats that they're not going to get away with the 2002 trick again this time. And of course this poll is entirely hypothetical anyway- Corzine's not going anywhere.
Back to Booker though- his numbers are pretty darn impressive and if he stays scandal free he may have his choice of the Democratic nominations for Governor in 2013 or Senator in 2014.
Full results here