New Jersey conservative gets Palin support, but lags in polling

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed Steve Lonegan (R) in his bid for retiring Rep. Jon Runyan’s (R-N.J.) seat, but a new survey shows him badly trailing GOP primary opponent Tom MacArthur.

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Palin previously endorsed Lonegan when he ran unsuccessfully for Senate last year, and again touted him as a “dedicated fighter for lower taxes, balanced budgets, and lessening the burdens of regulations on small businesses."

While Lonegan has secured the backing of a handful of national Tea Party groups, establishment Republicans are wary of his candidacy, fearful his penchant for off-color comments and his staunch conservatism could lose them the seat.

Though it’s traditionally gone to Republicans, Obama won it the last two cycles and Democrats have a strong recruit in Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard.

Establishment Republicans prefer MacArthur, the former mayor of Randolph who has poured $2 million of his own money into the campaign. He’s also secured the Ocean and Burlington County endorsements, giving him an advantage in next Tuesday’s primary.

And a new survey, conducted by the Tarrance Group for establishment-minded GOP group American Action Network, puts MacArthur soundly in the lead. The group is backing MacArthur.

He snags 43 percent of likely GOP primary voters, while Lonegan takes 30 percent support and another 27 percent are still undecided. That’s a considerable surge from AAN’s last survey, in April, when MacArthur had just a 5-point lead over Lonegan.

The survey, which was conducted among 400 likely GOP primary voters from May 18-20 and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, also indicates MacArthur is seen more favorably than Lonegan.