CNN BREAKING NEWS
Sen. Torricelli May Drop Out of Race
Aired September 30, 2002 - 11:44 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The Associated Press reporting that New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli could be dropping out of the race to go for his seat once again. This goes to his declining popularity that has plummeted ever since he was admonished by the Senate and the Senate Ethics Committee, considering an investigation that took place over the summer.
Our Jon Karl is on the phone with us right now to give us some more insight about what is happening, what Torricelli could be considering, and the bigger picture, what this could mean to the balance of the U.S. Senate.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, the bottom line here, as far as Torricelli's future here, is party officials say that he is very seriously considering pulling out. Basically, the situation has gone back and forth whether or not he is pulling out. He is still in negotiations with party leaders about this. But the bottom line is Democratic Party leaders in Washington are already talking to alternative candidates. Two of those they are talking to are current members of the House of Representatives, Bob Menendez and Frank Pallone, both considering jumping in if in fact Torricelli goes though and pulls out.
What prompted this, I'm told by party officials, is a poll out, "The New York Star Ledger" newspaper had a poll that shows Torricelli is trailing his Republican opponent, someone who until a couple months ago was virtually unknown in New Jersey, trailing him by double digits. So it's looking very bad politically for Torricelli because of the ethics problems he faced.
As far as the bigger question you mentioned, Daryn, what does this mean for the U.S. Senate and control of the U.S. Senate, this would be a severe blow to Democratic chances for control over the Senate. Democrats control the Senate by a bare one-vote margin. They were counting on winning New Jersey as a solid Democratic state. But then the other question is, well, if Torricelli pulls out, he's deeply wounded because of his ethic problems, would one of these other Democrats be a stronger candidate? That's a real possibility, something that these guys clearly are counting on.
KAGAN: The poll, just to put it in perspective, you said that Doug Forrester up by 13 points. As early ago as June, I think Torricelli was up by 14 percentage points. So that switch is just incredible over that slim number of months.
And on the switching matter, I can't help but think back to the New York Senate race with Hillary Clinton when Rudy Giuliani dropped out. The timing does not seem the best do something like that, Jonathan.
KARL: It's extremely late in the game here. I mean, you've got to get a whole statewide campaign. This is one of the most expensive states in the country to run a campaign, because basically, the TV that people in New Jersey watch is the New York media market and the Philadelphia media market, two of the most expensive in the country. So this is an extremely tough place to run. A candidate jumping in in October, it would be very tough to pull off.
But you are citing the poll of Torricelli just a few months ago being up by 14 percent, I mean, this is a race that a few months ago was not on anyone's radar screen. The expectation is Torricelli would have an easy time winning re-election. But then the Senate Ethics Committee came out and severely admonished him for his relationship with a contributor to his campaign, saying that he had gotten inappropriate gifts from a contributor, and that's completely changed this race and potentially completely changed Democratic prospects for maintaining control of the Senate.
KAGAN: And following that, I guess Senator Torricelli has launched this huge apology campaign. Sounds like potentially the voters are not buying that apology.
Can you imagine, I mean, you have to start your campaign off by running an ad apologizing for your ethical behavior, and it's been a very tough go for him. And, obviously, those ads, I mean, those are paid advertisements, with Torricelli looking into the camera, saying essentially, I am sorry for what I have done. And clearly, that message did not take in New Jersey.
KAGAN: Especially in this day and age of what so many people are thinking about, differently business people, not the good time to be implicated in that.
Jonathan Karl, thank you so much.
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