Congressman Frank Pallone, for instance, has waited patiently for a Lautenberg retirement and would be extremely reluctant to put aside his ambition and stand down in favor of Sweeney.
Should Congressman Steve Rothman prevail in his primary contest with Congressman Bill Pascrell, he, too, can stake a legitimate claim on Lautenberg’s seat.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate next year, but as a Senate candidate in 2014 as well. He’s already created a Federal political action committee, suggesting he’s hedging his bets but is serious nonetheless.
Lautenberg is a tough and shrewd politician who has proven repeatedly that he can more than hold his own in the combat that goes along with not only winning an office but in remaining there.
When, for instance, he asked the U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to look into the proposed Rowan-Rutgers merger, his statement never mentioned Norcross by name but the reference in his statement to backroom deals and political insiders was aimed directly at him.
When, in a fortuitous coincidence for Lautenberg, State Comptroller Matthew Boxer issued a damning report on years of questionable financial practices of the Delaware River Port Authority, including a payment of some $450,000 to an insurance brokerage firm headed by Norcross, the Senator pounced on it as credible and objective proof of personal gain through political manipulation.
It’s unlikely that Sweeney’s and Norcross’ attacks on Lautenberg were heat of the moment reactions open to be withdrawn when cooler heads prevailed. Rather, they were part of a calculated and deliberate strategy to deliver a message to the Senator that --- as formidable as he’s been in the past --- he’s occupying shaky ground.
Not only have the bridges been burned, but the six square blocks of the village surrounding it have been put to the torch as well.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Richard Stockton College.