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U.S. Senate race heating up as gap tightens with two days to go

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Cory Booker, left, and Steve Lonegan
Cory Booker, left, and Steve Lonegan - ()

Though a new poll released today shows that ex-Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan has shortened the gap between him and Newark mayor Cory Booker in their race for the U.S. Senate, Booker still maintains a double-digit lead with just two days to go.

The Monmouth University Poll shows that while Booker, a Democrat, currently holds a 10-point advantage over his Republican challenger, his lead is down from 13 points just two weeks ago and 16 points over the summer.

A major factor for the shift seems to be voters' skepticism of Booker's motives in seeking the seat, said Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray.

"Concerns about Cory Booker's intentions to serve New Jersey continue to persist and his favorability ratings continue to drop," Murray said in the poll release. "At the same time, voters clearly prefer Booker's political views over Lonegan's. The message seems to be that Garden State voters don't like to feel that their support is being taken for granted."

The polling results speak to Lonegan's portrayal of Booker as a "Hollywood" candidate, a sentiment he has repeatedly expressed both on the campaign trail and during debates.

But Lonegan sought out his own star power this weekend, bringing in ex-Alaska Gov. and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin to speak at a rally Saturday at the New Egypt Speedway and help drive his message home.

"We are here today to say it's time that we furlough the D.C.-style politicians and their celebrity friends and we send real, tested, proven, common-sense leaders to do the job and Steve Lonegan is that wise leader," Palin said at the rally Saturday.

But today, support for Booker didn't come from Hollywood, but instead, straight from the White House.

In a web video released this morning, President Barack Obama urged New Jerseyans to make it to the polls on Wednesday to cast their votes for Booker, adding that voters have "the opportunity to send a message to the entire country about what kind of leadership we expect from our representatives in Congress."

"Take it from me, now more than ever before, that's the kind of leader we need in the Senate," Obama said of Booker in the video.

Both candidates have lined up full schedules of events across the state as Wednesday fast approaches.

On election night, Lonegan will hold an event at the Bridgewater Manor while Booker will be at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

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