Ralph Benko

The Democratic-leaning Washington Post recently assessed the chances of the Republicans taking a Senate majority this year as, quite possibly, almost as high as two to one. True enough, and significant. Yet… in inventorying the most obvious races the big politicos are, for now, overlooking the most interesting, and potentially most transformational, race of 2014: that for the seat now occupied by Senator Cory Booker.

Booker’s celebrity status (and thus national fundraising prowess) makes his re-election, in the eyes of the usual star-struck handicappers, a foregone conclusion.

Not so fast.

U.S. Senate contender Jeffrey Bell

An unconventional opponent has entered the Republican primary for Booker’s seat: Jeffrey Bell, a former Republican Senate nominee. Bell is returning from a political odyssey longer than — and, in its specifics, as compelling as — that of Ulysses’s return from the Trojan War. Bell returns to his own Ithaca: Leonia, New Jersey. To run.

Full disclosure: Bell is a long time friend and sometime professional associate about whom it is impossible for this columnist to be objective. That said, there are objective reasons to pay attention to this dramatic development.

The Newark Star-Ledger’s columnist Paul Mulshine deems Bell the “only member of the current field with the sort of experience expected of a senator.” Mulshine:

In 1978, the then-34-year-old Bell was a member of the Reagan revolution, the conservative movement that had nearly denied incumbent President Gerald Ford the GOP presidential nomination two years earlier.

The revolutionaries needed something to do in the lull before the 1980 race. So they coalesced behind Bell in his attempt to knock out another moderate Republican incumbent, U.S. Sen. Clifford Case of New Jersey.

This was considered the longest of long shots.

But when the votes were counted, Bell had 1.5 percent more of them. The headlines told of Bell’s “miracle victory,” but ever since, such miracles have become commonplace.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.

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