HAMDEN, Conn., Aug. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has a 10-point lead over Jeff Bell, a Republican who tried and failed to win a New Jersey Senate seat 30 years ago, the Quinnipiac Poll said.
A whopping 77 percent of respondents said they did not know enough about Bell to have an opinion of him. Maurice Carroll, the director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, suggested that the current partisan divide has given Bell a boost.
"Hardly anyone knows Jeff Bell. Still, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker's lead is barely in double digits," Carroll said. "Two-thirds of Republicans don't know their Senate candidate, but more than 80 percent back him."
Almost half, 47 percent, of respondents said they would vote for Booker if the election was held now, while 37 percent picked Bell. Respondents gave Booker a 47 percent to 27 percent approval rating, while Bell's approval rating was 16 to 5.
Booker, a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate, became New Jersey's first black senator after serving as mayor of Newark. He is running for a full term after winning election to the seat left vacant by the death of Frank Lautenberg.
Bell stunned New Jersey politicians in 1978 when he defeated four-term Sen. Clifford Case in the Republican primary. Bell went on to be trounced by Democrat Bill Bradley in the general election and New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the Senate since then.
In 1982, Bell lost in the Republican primary to Rep. Millicent Fenwick, who was defeated by Lautenberg. Bell has spent much of his career as a conservative policy wonk, holding posts at academic institutions and partisan think tanks.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,148 registered New Jersey voters between July 31 and Aug. 4. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.