New Jersey gubernatorial election: Phil Murphy tries to become the first Democrat to be re-elected in more than 40 years

Like Virginia – where Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin won Tuesday night – New Jersey has had a reliable blue streak in federal and local contests, but has always voted in the party outside of the White House in its races for office. of governor outside the year.

In addition to their loss in Virginia, the tight race in Garden State – where President Joe Biden also won in double digits in 2020 – is a warning sign for Democrats looking to maintain their majority in Congress in mid- course for next year.

Murphy’s lead over Ciattarelli in a number of late polls had appeared to be in or near double digits, giving Democrats confidence in the outcome and focusing on the possible margin – and what that might portend for the mid-election. term of office next year.

Murphy’s campaign acknowledges that the evening has been more difficult than expected, but they maintain that they will withdraw it at the end, believing that the pending votes will be canceled for them, a Murphy’s adviser has said.

Like Youngkin, Ciattarelli – a businessman and former state lawmaker – kept Trump at bay, instead of hammering Murphy over taxes and what he argued were the effects of the Democrat’s response to the pandemic on business. Democrats hope that even a narrow victory for Murphy will be an affirmation of the party’s commitments to mask and vaccinate the mandates, which Murphy has defended in a state that has suffered around 28,000 deaths from Covid-19.
The final Monmouth University survey of the race showed Murphy with leads ranging from 8 to 14 points, depending on different models of who comes to vote. These numbers represent a modest narrowing of the race, in which taxes – an issue Ciattarelli leads – were listed as the main issue. But Murphy’s advantage on who voters trust the most to handle the pandemic was significantly higher, from 45% to 26%, a gap that has remained broadly constant since the summer. The Democrat also enjoys a considerable lead on an issue that rocked the race in Virginia – education and schools – leading Ciattarelli by 15 points.

Democrats on record are more than one million than Republicans on record in New Jersey, although voters have shown willingness to support moderate GOP candidates, like former two-term governors. Christie Todd Whitman and, before Murphy’s 2017 election, Chris Christie.

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As in Virginia, New Jersey Democrats and Murphy’s campaign have always linked the Republican nominee to Trump, who remains deeply unpopular in New Jersey. The complicating factor, however, is that Biden’s approval in the state has sunk in recent months. (He had 6 points underwater in the Monmouth sounding.)

Ciattarelli played down Trump-fueled conspiracy theories of voter fraud – at least as far as they applied to his own perspectives.

“Don’t let anyone stay at home because they think we can’t win or because it’s rigged,” Ciattarelli said at a campaign event last week. “It’s not rigged here in New Jersey. We can win this race.”

Ciattarelli did not name Trump, but the remark underscored the headwinds created by the former president’s lies about the 2020 election and the awkward dance attempted by more mainstream Republican candidates trying to keep Trump on board and get them to the polls without alienating Suburban Swing voters discouraged by Trump’s behavior and rhetoric.

During their second debate, in mid-October, a moderator pressured Ciattarelli on whether he would accept the support of the former president and campaign alongside him. The Republican candidate, who criticized Trump but backed him last year, suggested he had no plans to appeal to the former president, who did not appear on the trail in the New Jersey despite the fact that there is a house.

“I’m going there and campaigning on my own,” Ciattarelli replied. “I will win my own election.”

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and ambassador to Germany who previously served as finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, took the opposite view, arguing against a who’s who of national Democratic heavyweights. Biden, former President Barack Obama and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who rallied around the governor of Rutgers University, all made headlines for him.

Obama, speaking in Newark last month, focused on Ciattarelli for previously speaking at a “Stop the Steal” rally, then later claimed he was unaware of the objective of the event.
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“Apparently Phil’s opponent is saying, well, he didn’t know it was a rally to overturn the results of the last election. Brother, come on,” Obama said. “When you stand in front of a sign that says ‘Stop the Steal’ and there’s a guy in the crowd waving a Confederate flag, you know it’s not a neighborhood barbecue.”

Ciattarelli’s camp, in response, highlighted his past statements claiming Biden won the election – remarks he had been attacked by other Republicans in the gubernatorial primary on.

In a pair of debates, Murphy also hammered Ciattarelli over the Republican’s opposition to the mask and vaccine mandates, arguing that the measures were crucial in tackling the Delta variant wave that has ravaged a number of ruled states. by the GOP.

“To make people ignore this, ignore this playbook (Covid response), unnecessarily puts lives at risk,” Murphy said at their second meeting. Ciattarelli’s insistence that decisions about masks and vaccines should be a matter of personal choice, he added, “sounds like an answer you would see in a debate in Texas or Florida.”

Murphy also sought to highlight concerns about the fate of abortion rights, which are under siege in GOP-led states and could suffer a devastating blow at the Supreme Court, where constitutional abortion rights could. soon be the subject of an existential test.

Both candidates support abortion rights, a political stance that puts Ciattarelli at odds with the national GOP. But he opposes a state bill called the Reproductive Freedom Act that would codify Roe v. Wade and would expand access by allowing more providers to perform the procedure.

Passage of the bill, Murphy said during the debate, would be his “number one item on the agenda” when New Jersey lawmakers meet for their next session later this year.

MJ Lee contributed to this report.

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