#NJSen Primary Poll and Analysis

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Brian Goldberg (left), Rich Pezzullo (center) and Jeff Bell (right) at a May 2014 Morris YR event
Brian Goldberg (left), Rich Pezzullo (center) and Jeff Bell (right) at a May 2014 Morris YR event

[Correction: an earlier version of this post stated that Jeff Bell had bracketed with Steve Lonegan in Ocean County; Bell nevertheless failed to file bracketing requests.]

Primary Day is finally upon us, Save Jerseyans, and the next week leading up to June 3rd presents a final opportunity for primary candidates on both sides of the aisle to make their final arguments to prospective voters.

That task has proven more than a little difficult in this year’s U.S. Senate primary given the lack of financial resources and party leadership interest allotted to taking on Cory Booker (D-Twitter). The four GOP hopefuls – Jeff Bell, Brian Goldberg, Rich Pezzullo and Murray Sabrin – have adopted different strategies to deal with these harsh realities.

All four men are using social media with varying degrees of success. They’re focusing on state issues as much as national ones in order to try and find media attention (e.g. Sabrin vs. Sweeney and Pezzullo vs. the 10-round magazine law). Bell didn’t even compete for county endorsements, choosing instead to lean on a few national GOP friends for endorsements from familiar faces and unleashing a small yet hyper-targeted dose of direct mail down the stretch.

Who has the edge?

Murray Sabrin (above) has ran hard at Goldberg for weeks.
Murray Sabrin (above) has ran hard at Goldberg for weeks.

Undoubtedly it’s Brian Goldberg simply because he’s got a clear plurality of county “lines” in his column (10 of 21), including Republican vote rich Ocean where, thanks to the tough CD3 House primary between Tom MacArthur and Steve Lonegan, Goldberg is likely to be the unintended beneficiary of a higher-than-elsewhere turnout.

Goldberg’s institutional advantage would matter a lot less if any of the other contenders boasted significant stockpiles of available cash with which to reap votes in undeclared GOP counties like Cape May and Morris, but given the fact that all four men had less than $65k COH combined as of April 1st, it doesn’t seem very likely that anyone will be able to capitalize notwithstanding some negative press coverage over the past week. 

That does not mean this race is decided by any means. For many of the same reasons set forth above, this year’s U.S. Senate contest carries a potential for unpredictability that’s unusual in major statewide contests. Add a super-low turnout into the mix and… well… it’s always possible that I’ll have a very interesting result to analyze for next Wednesday morning.

Who’s earned your support with one week left to go? Vote below, then give us your best argument in the comments section….

Whom Do You Support in the #NJSen GOP Primary?
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Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8345 Articles
MATT ROONEY is SaveJersey.com's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.


  1. Goldberg has nine lines, he’s sharing Burlington (and he’s smack dab in the middle of three candidates with the line). Please correct.
    Goldberg’s lines get him 20% statewide and I sincerely doubt hell get a single vote anywhere else. His $5,000 raised for the whole cycle makes him a non-factor, and all his name ID outside his counties is from the Chasing NJ story. The verdict: non-factor.
    Jeff Bell has no ballot slogan, and likely not enough money to make an off-line push. The verdict: third place thanks to fundraising and endorsements.
    Rich Pezzullo and Murray Sabrin are a toss-up to win in my mind. Pezzullo has an unmatched organization, Sabrin has unequaled fundraising. Pezzullo has more lines, but Sabrin is on the radio and has an excited base that he doesn’t have to share (libertarians).
    My call? If you simulated this election 100 times, Sabrin wins 40 times, Pezzullo 40, Bell 15 and Goldberg 5. Goldberg is without money, without an executive director and essentially without a campaign. Bell is without any GOTV effort. Sabrin is without organized support, and Pezzullo is without cash. So it’s still up in the air.

  2. If I absolutely had to predict? GOTV is king. One of these guys has it.
    Pezzullo 29%
    Sabrin 28%
    Bell 23%
    Goldberg 20%

  3. It’s a weird situation, so I’m counting Burlington in each of their respective columns. As for the rest of your comments… hey, you could be right! It’s an unprecedented primary insofar as there isn’t an “establishment” choice. My only critique of your reasoning would be that you’re undervaluing the power of the lines.

  4. Conventional wisdom among people who execute GOTV operations is that it adds anywhere from 3 to 5 points to your victory margin… if it’s done correctly. I don’t think that’s enough to overcome the line advantage unless it’s supported by significant paid media “air support” but none of Goldberg’s opponents have that kind of cash. I’m totally open to being proved wrong!

  5. Pezzullo is the guy. Btw, this site is not conservative. What gives? Why the false advertising? Change your tagline to All Establishment all the time.

  6. Goldberg’s line advantage isn’t as tough as it looks. Pezzullo’s three lines are essentially equal to Goldberg’s smallest five counties – Passaic, Cumberland, Hudson, Essex, Mercer. So that whittles Goldberg’s advantage to 4. Add in that Pezzullo is running with a full slate in Atlantic and the organization there isn’t going to vigorously defend Goldberg, the advantage is 3. Getting past Ocean, Hunterdon, Somerset will be a challenge, but a strong effort in Morris or Bergen could do the trick.

  7. Like I said… it’s not a done deal. But your first three words says it all: “Goldberg’s line advantage.” It’s undeniably an advantage; folks of good will and reasonable intelligence can debate how good it is! It still remains.

  8. I like Rich quite a bit, but I’m not going to manipulate the facts for people I like. There’s nothing conservative about wishful thinking. But hey, plenty of this site’s loyal readers fought overseas to defend your right to be ignorant and nasty so please, by all means, carry on being wrong about this site with my full blessing!

  9. No I understand. But sadly in our world, elections cannot be won with no money and no organization. I don’t think enough establishment types will be coming out to vote in Goldberg’s counties to bout him, especially if there’s crossover in Ocean on account of no one there HA ever heard of Goldberg.

  10. Have I hit a nerve? What’s ignorant and nasty about stating my opinion of your blog? Do you read your own articles? There is nothing objective about them. You go out of your way to defend every establishment candidate and agenda. I’m not the only one to notice this. If you can’t take opinion, you’re in the wrong business and I wouldn’t bother going into advertising because you haven’t gotten that right either.

  11. Not a nerve but a pet peeve, yes, because I’m determined to help reclaim the GOP from RINO hunting retrogrades. More folks agree with me on this point with every passing day as the results of this regrettable civil war speak for themselves, and I won’t stop until the RINO hunters are nothing more than a sad little footnote in party history. Count on it.

  12. So you admit you’re not conservative because if you were you wouldn’t be hunting rino hunters. Is that the reason for the misleading tagline then? Bait, trap and attack? Rinos trying to reclaim the GOP??. You have it backwards. It’s true republicans trying to reclaim what should have never changed to begin with. The current majority of the establishment GOP have left the ideals they are supposed to represent forcing those of us who really are republicans to now be branded as extreme conservatives, as if that’s a bad thing. With the exception of the Cruz’s, Gowdys, and Pauls of this country, there is little or no difference between an establishment republican and a democrat/liberal. What is it you’re trying to reclaim, Matt? The ability to use the republican brand for fortune and political gain without anyone calling you all out on it? Annoying bunch those who refuse to be silent, aren’t we? We have similar missions. I, and those like me, will not stop until every sell out, fake republican politician and their hacks are shown for the corrupt individuals they are. Count on it.

  13. To the RINO hunter: I support Rich too. But I don’t think believing Goldberg is the favorite makes this a non-conservative website, and truly I believe Goldberg means it when he says he’s a conservative. I just don’t think he’s earned the credo to deserve the nomination. Every other candidate in the race has statewide experience other than Goldberg. Give it 4-10 years and I’ll be proud to vote for him if he’s active politically in that time. But in 2014 he’s just too inexperienced and wouldn’t stand a chance against Booker and a hardened democratic machine that’s still warm from it’s senate win and legislative control in 2013.

  14. My vote is for Sabrin.
    His strong stance against the not-so Federal Reserve, true free market understanding and a real 2nd Amendment support wins my vote.

  15. I’m with you. Sabrin 2014. The other guys are weak candidates and have no message. Murray has been articulating his message for years. With the other guys, I feel like they will just blend in and the race will go unknown until a week before November’s election. With Sabrin, he will keep the NJ Senate race interesting. That’s my take. Anyway, if Pezzullo wins (which I have a funny feeling will in fact happen), I will support him. Goldberg can go to hell (I’m sure he’s an alright guy, but he’s just a RINO), and Bell is way too old and boring (no offense Jeff).

    1.) SABRIN 2014!!!
    2.) Pezzullo as alternative 2014!!!!!

  16. You have no clue as to who will earn my vote next week. Your opinion is based solely upon my observation that the candidate whom you consider insufficiently conservative – Brian Goldberg – has an institutional advantage at the polls. Then out comes the old “RINO” label rather than engage on the substance as other participants in this thread have done. No one is attacking the other candidates. To the contrary, I’ve given a full and fair hearing to everyone who wanted to interface with our audience. Don’t turn this into something it’s not simple because you’re intellectually ill-equipped to engage with other Save Jerseyans on a substantive rather than personal level; I do everything within my power to educate the ignorant, and you’re more than welcome to stick around and learn the error of your ways!

  17. Don’t get me wrong – I think Goldberg is the least qualified and least electable of the four. But not by very much. I think Goldberg is the kind of person a lot of young people are mad at: Wealthy business owners who inherited their parents’ outfit. Bell and Sabrin are both people who get payed to wonk out over economic policy, not an intriguing proposition to your average voter. That’s why I like Rich: he’s got a sort of average-joe appeal that the other guys just don’t and that Cory Booker certainly doesn’t. My second choice is Murray Sabrin, because he could get Rand Paul up here stumping and trying to slap around a potential 2016 General Election foe.

  18. Matt Rooney: What’s your opinion re:Sabrin vs. Goldberg? Good for the party? Should Goldberg be firing back harder? Should they both leave politics forever and become a travelling banjo duo? I’d like to hear your take. Personally, I don’t think either of them deserve the nomination.

  19. It comes down to money in the end, and Murray has the most of it. Best thing is to nominate Murray. He is the strongest candidate. I will gladly vote for Pezzullo if he is the nominee. Bell I will need to look into more. Goldberg is just out of the question. Sabrin 2014

  20. Ideological reservations with both men aside: it’s such a bizarre race because they’re all broke, so in a sense, the rule book gets thrown out the window. Without having raised any $$$, Goldberg’s probably playing it smart by sitting back, visiting clubs and ***trying*** to avoid mistakes. Sabrin, who’s only relatively less-broke (50k-ish is nothing in a statewide race), is naturally trying to generate a Goldberg mistake so that he can try to capitalize upon it. At this point, Anonymous, I think it’s all neutral for the party because no one is seeing it except for us… it’s an invisible primary. I’m not sure what else they could do to make it more visible without hitting the lottery.

  21. Aside from all that has been said, has anyone paid attention to the positioning of the names on the ballot? In Monmouth County, Rich Pezzullo won the line, but yet he is in Column 2. Murray Sabrin is in Column 1. Brian Goldberg is in Column 3, and Jeff Bell is in Column 4. I did my own unscientific poll, with voters that did not know any of the candidates. Most voters said they would vote for Murray Sabrin because he was listed in Column 1. This is an effect commonly called “down ballot effects”. It is similar to item order effects in assessment development. I am President of Election Integrity NJ and I can tell you that there are issues with ballot positioning that can affect the outcome of the Primary Election.

  22. How specifically was the ballot position decision made? I would assume that ballot positioning would have to undergo a strict, transparent method. If the county line determines top position, so be it, but I suspect there is other mechanizations going on. But who is the decisionmaker with regard to creating the ballot?

    This is a general question that extends to all voting districts for all races, by the way. We need transparency in this regard for all.

    The only good part of this is that Rich is hands down the most effective, most prolific candidate going, and not only has his p’s and q’s down, he has backed it up in every walk of life.

  23. If Goldberg wins we’ll need to have a serious talk about “the line” and how it was possible that a candidate no one had heard of besides county committee members managed to carry a state primary. Especially if Goldy gets wholloped in the general.

  24. And I think it’ll be time for a serious dialogue about ending “the line” for good and making candidates earn votes from voters, not party elites, especially because in counties like Cumberland the results were very close and Hunterdon where Goldberg was defeated at convention- I repeat, he was not the choice of the county committee- yet was awarded “the line” after the untimely demise of the Turkavage campaign.

  25. Also, closed screenings have got to go. Ocean and Hudson had closed screenings and both went for Goldberg. The only county with an open screening, Middlesex, gave it to Sabrin.

  26. Each County Convention has its own rules on how they conduct their elections. In Middlesex, they allow any Republican who pays $25 to vote even though they are not on the County Committee. In Monmouth, the County Chair used to be able to let others who were not on the County Connittee vote — however the bylaws were revised in 2012 to prevent that. In some Counties, the County Chaur decides who gets the line — no election is held. As someone who works with elections at the local, state, and federal levels, my advice is to become a County Committee member and work on revising the bylaws to allow only County Committee members to vote.

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