With primary day a month from today, supporters of Anna Little are urging her to challenge Diane Gooch to a debate in their race for the GOP nomination to retire Frank Pallone. To date, Little has not issued a challenge. I'd be surprised if she does.
Such a challenge would be nothing more than political gamesmanship. Gooch would never accept. The purpose of a challenge would be to issue a critical press release that would have no impact on the primary results.
While the Gooch and Little campaigns are keeping an eye on each other, both sides have avoided engaging the other publicly. There have been no negative attacks, personal or issue oriented. If that changes in the next month, Little will not make the first strike. The Gooch campaign would only strike if they have polling data that suggests doing so would be necessary to win. I don't see that happening either. Little's positions would be tough to attack in this environment. A personal attack would be contrived and could easily backfire.
While I am not a polling expert, I imagine this race is very difficult to poll. Who are the likely voters? Will the Tea Party activists really turn out voters? This race is difficult to predict or poll.
If history is an accurate guide, there will be between 5600 and 7400 voters in the GOP CD 6 primary.
There are 49,371 registered Republicans in CD 6, according to a report generated by the firm Labels and Lists on April 23. In last year's hotly contested and well covered gubernatorial primary between Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan, only 15,847 Republicans voted. In the 2008 June primary that featured a contested U.S Senate primary between the establishment's third choice, Dick Zimmer vs State Senator "Jersey Joe" Pennachio, 7,365 CD 6 Republicans voted. In 2006 5,619 GOP voters went to the polls for the primary that nominated Leigh Ann Bellew, the "Mom on a Mission" from Union Beach now volunteering for the Little campaign. In each of those races, the candidate with the party's endorsement won handily.
History would seem to favor Gooch.
Yet the Gooch campaign is not acting like the race is a cakewalk. They are holding meet and greets throughout the district and phone banks out of GOP headquarters in Freehold. Why? If they have polling data showing Little running strong among historical primary voters, they aren't saying.
If the Little campaign can persuade 3000 historical primary voters to give her shot and increase the turnout with new Tea Party registrants, we could be in for a surprise on June 8. That won't be easy, but Gooch's actions say it is possible.