Breaking: Frank Lautenberg to retire in 2014, clearing the way for Senator Geraldo

Seriously, though, sounds like we’re right on track for the big 2020 Rubio vs. Booker showdown.

“I am not announcing the end of anything. I am announcing the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey,” Lautenberg told the Star-Ledger. “While I may not be seeking re-election, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I’m going to keep fighting as hard asever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.”…

At home, he has tangled with Gov. Chris Christie on a number of issues, criticizing the Republican governor for slashing funds for the poor, nixing a new rail tunnel linking New Jersey and New York and merging Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University. And he has been critical of Democrats who have formed their own cozy relationships with Christie, accusing them of weakening the party.

Everything’s coming up Christie these days, huh? Not only is one of his chief Democratic enemies retiring, his most formidable potential challenger for governor, Booker, now is free and clear to pursue a different office. (Who knows? Maybe the big 2020 showdown will be the long-awaited Christie vs. Booker superfight after all.) Last month, when the buzz about Lautenberg retiring first started humming, I thought a primary between him and Booker would be intriguing as a test of state name recognition versus budding national rock star. I was wrong: Per a Quinnipiac poll taken three weeks ago, Booker led Lautenberg by 20 points. Evidently he’s done enough Sunday shows and received enough good press for his acts of heroism to neutralize the incumbent’s recognition edge; meanwhile, 71 percent of Jersey voters said Lautenberg’s age makes Senate work too difficult. If you’re 89, facing an uphill battle for reelection, and disinclined to end a long career with a humiliating loss, retirement is the graceful way out.

Booker’s still looking at a primary fight from Rep. Frank Pallone, but given his national potential I assume the party will be firmly behind him. Their bench is thin on young stars; they need him in Washington, frankly. Oh, and as for Geraldo, 48 percent of Jersey Republicans say they’re unlikely to vote for him versus 44 percent who say the opposite. Among the wider electorate, 51 percent say they won’t consider voting for him at all. Alas, my friends, I fear the next New Jersey Senate vote for amnesty will be cast by a Democrat.