So despite facing two veteran members of Congress and arousing a lot of protests from progressive activists, Newark Mayor Cory Booker won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey by close to 40 points, winning 59% against Frank Pallone’s 19% and Rush Holt’s 17%. He’ll now face Tea Party activist Steve Lonegan (last seen challenging Chris Christie from the right in a 2009 primary) in a special general election on October 16, which is not expected to be close. Booker will, however, have to do it all over again next year, when the term Frank Lautenberg was elected to in 2008 expires.

The bigger issue for a lot of observers is whether Booker has national ambitions. For admirers, he’s the next Barack Obama, a charismatic African-American pol with possible transpartisan appeal. To detractors, he’s an unholy combination of Harold Ford, Jr. and Joe Lieberman, beholden to Wall Street and Silicon Valley. So his first steps in the Senate will be watched closely.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.