Almost every time in 2009 that we've polled on a politician for the first time and been surprised by the numbers it's been because that person is more unpopular than we expected. We are in a recession period for the popularity of politicians, and that's been par for the course.
There is one exception to that rule though: Cory Booker. When we polled on him in September there was a lot to be impressed with in his numbers. A lot could change in four years but if his standing remains as good as it is now New Jersey Democratic recruitment efforts should start and end with him for the 2013 Governor's race, assuming he's up for it.
Starting with his popularity within the party, 55% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of him, almost as good as the 60% who viewed Jon Corzine favorably on our final poll. But only 12% have a negative opinion of him, less than half of the 28% who held a dim view of Corzine. If you're a Democrat and you can win 85% or more of the Democratic vote in New Jersey, you win, period. Corzine lost because he didn't do that, but Booker would start out in a good position to do so.
Booker's got good numbers across party lines too though. Independents view him positively 35/24, and keep in mind those numbers are with the very conservative leaning group of independents who gave Christie an overwhelming margin last week. That +11 favorability ratio with them is better than Daggett's was (+1), Christie's (even), and obviously Corzine's (-43). It seems likely Booker could at least break even with independents and that's more than good enough in what is typically a deep blue state.
The thing that impressed me the most though about Booker's numbers was his standing with Republicans. A small plurality (29/27) held a positive opinion of him. Certainly I wouldn't expect him to win anywhere near 29% of the Republican vote, but the primary motivator for GOP voters last week seemed to be hatred of Corzine so Democrats would be better off with someone at the top of the ticket who isn't such a lightning rod.
2013 is quite a ways off, but Booker looks to be a very impressive candidate.