Lautenberg suggests Booker deserves a "spanking"

Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee Chairman Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) presides over a hering on 'Superstorm Sandy: The Devastating Impact on the Nation's Largest Transportation Systems.' December 6, 2012 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said yesterday that Newark Mayor Cory Booker is "entitled" to mount a primary bid against him if he wishes to do so. However, the 89-year-old senator likened his fellow Democrat to one of his children in need of a spanking.

"He's entitled to do it," Lautenberg told the Philadelphia Inquirer about the prospect of a primary challenge from Booker. "He'll have to stand on his record and I'm sure he won't be a lone soldier out there drooling at the mouth and wanting this cushy job that we have here."

That said, when asked about the recent characterization that Booker's interest in the Senate seat was "disrespectful," Lautenberg didn't disagree with it.

"I have four children, I love each one of them. I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK," Lautenberg reportedly said with a smile.

The 43-year-old Newark mayor is exploring the possibility of running for the Senate in 2014, but he hasn't committed to it. Lautenberg, who turned 89 today, has not said whether he'll seek another six-year term in 2014.

"I've got a lot of work to do yet, serious things and we pride ourselves (in) my office and my team (on) getting things done. That's the focus. I'm not thinking about the politics right now," Lautenberg told the Inquirer. Lautenberg, among other things, has been leading gun reform efforts in the Senate. On Tuesday, he introduced a bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

While Lautenberg may be suggesting he could give Booker a spanking in a primary, a new Quinnipiac poll suggests otherwise. The poll, conducted January 15 - 21, shows that if the primary were held today, 51 percent of registered Democrats would vote for Booker while just 30 percent would vote for Lautenberg.

Half of New Jersey voters approve of the job Lautenberg is doing (just 34 percent disapprove), but 45 percent say he does not deserve to be re-elected, while 36 percent say he does. More than seven in 10 say the senator's age may make his work as a senator too difficult for him.

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