Pressel followed up her opening 66 with a solid round at Stockton Seaview's Bay Course to move to seven-under, with Sweden's Anna Nordqvist next best on six-under.
Play in New Jersey was delayed by an hour due to fog, and tricky conditions prevailed throughout the day, with a hard-to-read breeze and bumpy greens making life difficult.
Going in search of her first LPGA Tour victory since 2008, Pressel registered bridies on the third and sixth to take the turn in 35. A bogey five at the par-four 13th after driving into the trees would be her lone blemish, and in truth she did well to limit the damage to just one dropped shot.
The 27-year-old would soon recover the dropped shot, picking up a birdie at the 16th after holing a 20-foot putt following some solid iron play.
Nordqvist began her second round slowly, with a birdie at the third the only excitement on the front nine. Back-to-back bogeys on the 11th and 12th threatened to derail her round, but the Swede bounced back strongly.
A run of three birdies from the 16th to the 18th saw her climb the leaderboard. Her four at the par-five 18th was particularly impressive, with Nordqvist sinking a crucial 10-foot putt.
Gerina Piller, Kelly Shon, Pernilla Lindberg, Catriona Matthew and Christel Boeljon are tired for third on four-under, with Kim Kaufman, Marissa Steen and Sun Young Yoo a further shot back.