Piscopo Competitive with Guadagno in New Poll

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Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is on top of the pack in this year’s New Jersey GOP gubernatorial primary race, Save Jerseyans, but name recognition is still king.

That’s the biggest takeaway from this morning’s Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind polling results, and it cuts both ways for the frontrunner. More on that in a minute.

The numbers: Guadagno (18%) leads former SNL comedian Joe Piscopo (12%) by only 6-points. Piscopo has flirted with entering the race but hasn’t yet pulled the trigger.

“Someone else” hauls in 13 percent, while Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers earn 2% each. 52% of Republicans confess not knowing enough about the current field to make a decision.

“Although Guadagno is leading the field, the fact that an as-yet undeclared candidate with no political experience is not too far behind is sure to garner attention,” opined Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind. “With many Republican endorsements remaining unclaimed, all contenders will need to do more to define and distinguish themselves, and capture the eye of many more Republican voters.”

Yes and no to that last part insofar as it’s easier said than done. Again, this is a doubled-edged sword kind of a situation.

Yes, Guadagno’s relatively low starting base of support among the Republican electorate is a problem if someone like Piscopo with some name recongition gets in the race and runs well, or an existing challenger like Ciattarelli raises/throws significant cash into the mix. There’s more than enough undecideds to make things interesting in June.

Stay tuned.

But no, too, in the sense Guadagno does have a jump on the critical ‘county line’ race (allowing her to bracket with known quantities down-ballot), so the well-networked LG can theoretically win a low-profile primary unless any of the aforementioned factors come into play. In other words: unless Ciattarelli, Piscopo or Rogers pick off a bunch of lines or raise a lot of money, she might not have to do much.

The last time someone won one of these things without a bunch of lines?

Bret Schundler in 2001.

And the hour is getting awfully late for a guy like Piscopo, residual celebrity status notwithstanding, to get into the race. I’m also told he hasn’t submitted his name for at least one key county convention by the necessary deadline.