Pennacchio stumps, Estabrook glides, Bramnick watches

At my most recent New Jersey Now taping, I had the chance to meet Assemblyman Jon Bramnick from Union County, who has curiously kept his name alive for next year's US Senate nomination. He now seems to be indicating that he will wait until after November's election to make a final decision (Bramnick is independently wealthy, but the $/day figure with less than a year to raise $15 million has got to be daunting him). He has an interesting angle, though - that people are tired of the status quo and he seems to want to run a totally different kind of campaign. He does have a certain regular-guy quality that could make such a plan interesting, depending just how outside-the-box he wants to go. I'm intrigued.

Regular-guy appeal, however, is not running short chez Joe Pennacchio, who has come up with a stump speech in which he discusses his Democrat roots, his admiration for JFK and Ronald Reagan, and his vision for the NJGOP. Not much issue-related meat to it, but it's early yet. I haven't heard much from Anne Estabrook or Larry Weitzner, but an inside source described her fundraising operation as "underwhelming". Another veteran operative told me that "the Whitman crowd will write her $250 checks as a courtesy, but they're not going to do much more than that."

Still, she continues to buy up organizational support (I heard a Bergen insider describe newly-elected Chairman Rob Ortiz's modus operandi as "let's see how fast we can sell the BCRO to Anne Estabrook"). I don't think it was a good move for him to personally endorse yet as we still have 2007 elections to be concerned with!

On the other hand, Pennacchio has formed an exploratory committee, which was not entirely necessary given that he already had plenty of buzz and everyone knew he was running. Besides, the only person named was Morris County GOP Chairman John Sette. Largely, the nomination will come down to how much conservative grassroots support Joe Pennacchio manages to get (I am hearing mixed messages from those circles), how well he can leverage his Assembly relationships and convert them to organizational support, and what kind of silly gimmicks Larry Weitzner stuffs into Estabrook's "campaign in a can". And of course, does Jon Bramnick have a crazy trick up his sleeve?