Might Booker ditch the race for New Jersey governor and go for the U.S. Senate instead?

While we all hunker down and wait for the battle that will likely be the 2014 midterms, the odd-year gubernatorial battles in Virginia and New Jersey will be getting a lot of attention (Virginia because of its national-bellwether status, New Jersey because of Chris Christie’s probable long-term ambitions).

It isn’t official yet, but in New Jersey, all signs have pointed to Christie going for a second term versus savvy Newark Mayor Cory Booker — but as Ed summarized the other day, it might behoove Booker’s career to sit this next one out. I have to add the obligatory qualifier that eleven months is like a century in political time and things could easily change, but Christie’s already high post-Sandy popularity is shooting through the roof, as New Jerseyans are eating up the displays of toughness and bipartisanship, and he doesn’t appear to have any real demographic weaknesses.

Even for a well-liked mayor, the time might not be ripe to front an upset for the governorship — but perhaps Booker’s opportune moment is actually coming in 2014? Posits WaPo:

The new poll from Democratic automated pollster Public Policy Polling shows that Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has worn out his welcome. Just 36 percent of New Jersey Democrats think he should run for another term (Lautenberg would be 90 in 2014), and almost three times as many prefer Booker as their nominee (59 percent) over Lautenberg (22 percent).

Even in a crowded primary with Reps. Rob Andrews and Frank Pallone, Booker would begin the race with a 30-point lead. And in the general, he would start out with a 23-point lead on Christie’s No. 2, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R).

(Republicans don’t really have a top-tier candidate for this race, so it’s hard to see the general election being an obstacle for the popular Booker.)

In other words, the Democratic Senate nomination, at this point, appears to be Booker’s for the taking, as does the Senate seat. And that’s regardless of whether the incumbent senator seeks reelection.

Perhaps Booker has his heart set on being an executive, but that is shaping up to be a very uphill battle, and if he is looking for a chance to advance his political career and his national profile, this could be it. Without a popular candidate in the running, it’s probably not a seat on which Republicans will exert a lot of effort in their bid to take back the Senate, so it seems like a pretty safe bet — we shall see.