New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has set the special election to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died on Monday, for Wednesday, October 16. The primary will be Tuesday, August 13. In a press conference on Tuesday, Christie said he needed to set the election dates ASAP because the issues facing the Senate were "too critically important" to delay.
Christie is a Republican running for reelection in a Democratic state, and while he's polling far ahead of Democratic opponent Barbara Buono, scheduling the Senate election at the same time as the statewide elections in November could have cost him votes. That's because popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, has said he'll run for the Senate seat.
So we now have a little window into how Christie's making his 2013 vs. 2016 calculations. Getting the love of New Jersey voters is pretty clearly his priority over the love of conservative presidential primary voters.
But what's good for Christie is probably not good for whichever Republican ends up running for the Senate seat. The National Review's Robert Costa reports that a "source" says Christie will appoint a "placeholder" to serve until the special election — and who won't run in it. That would mean the Republican candidate wouldn't get the perks of having been in office for a few months, or of being on the same ballot as the popular Christie. And the last time a Republican New Jersey governor appointed a placeholder before a special Senate election, the Democrat ended up winning. It was Lautenberg.