TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie was seemingly everywhere at once after his State of the State message this week: the cover of Time magazine, the morning talk show circuit (yet again), and the Jersey shore to christen a new boardwalk.
With his popularity and visibility at record highs after Superstorm Sandy, Democrats are wondering if there is anyone left in the party to challenge him for re-election, beyond the one declared candidate who is not the first choice of the party establishment.
Democratic State Committee Chairman John Wisniewski said he's "antsy" for a decision from the fence-sitters.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker was believed to the most formidable potential challenger but he said "no" last month, throwing Democrats a curve many said was unexpected. Booker on Tuesday filed with the Federal Election Commission as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney and former Gov. Dick Codey, the lawmaker Sweeney ousted to gain the leadership post, are still saying they might run. Congressman Bill Pascrell all but took himself out of the running on Thursday by telling Politickernj.com, "I'm not pursuing that position."
That leaves Sen. Barbara Buono as the only major Democrat who has announced a challenge to the governor-turned-political titan. But Buono is not the top choice of establishment Democrats. As long as they continue to recruit an alternate candidate, Buono will be an underdog in her own party and a longshot in a would-be face-off against Christie.
Even Democrats acknowledge the huge risk involved in challenging the incumbent Christie, whose command of the bully pulpit and YouTube video have made him a national political star and strong early contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
As sitting legislators facing re-election in November, Buono, Sweeney and Codey would have to give up their Senate seats to run because candidates can't campaign for two elected offices simultaneously.
Buono, the 59-year-old former Senate majority leader, arguably has the least to lose. She was stripped of her leadership position for opposing Sweeney, and she'd be all but certain to stay on the Senate bench as long as the current power structure survives.
"Barbara Buono is adventurous enough to get in the race; she's on the battlefield right now," Wisniewski said in the Metuchen senator's defense, probably attempting to impose a deadline for the 'Anybody but Barbara' faction of the party to decide.