By Jonathan Tamari / Inquirer Washington Bureau

Republican Steve Lonegan has pulled ahead of Cory Booker among independent voters, but his weakness among women means he still trails by double digits with one week to go until the Oct. 16 election, according to a new poll out Wednesday.

Overall, Booker leads Lonegan 53-41 among likely voters, a Quinnipiac University poll found. That's the same as in its Sept. 24 poll, which showed a race far closer than many expected.

In a state that has consistently voted Democratic in federal elections, Lonegan has pulled ahead among independents, 50-44. In the Sept. 24 survey, Booker led among independents, 47-44.

The results paint a picture of Lonegan closing the gap with a tenacious campaign, but unable to break through to get within single digits as election day nears.

His biggest problem – and Booker's biggest strength: women support Booker by 62-31. Men support Lonegan, 51-44.

"It's still not the predicted blow-out, but with a week to go, Newark Mayor Cory Booker hangs on to a nice, if not exactly comfortable, double-digit lead," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Also a factor: registered New Jersey Democrats outnumber Republicans by 730,000, and likely Democratic voters back Booker 92-4. Lonegan's support among Republicans is 87-10.

Booker's favorability ratings stand at 57 percent, compared with 32 percent who view him unfavorably – from 53-30 two weeks ago. Lonegan's favorables are at 36-33, and 28 percent don't know enough about him to form an opinion – a significant share this close to election day.

The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 899 likely New Jersey voters, with a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Booker and Lonegan face off in their second and final debate Wednesday night at Rowan University at 7 p.m. The debate, co-sponsored by the Inquirer, and NBC, will air on NBC10 in Philadelphia.

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