Every four years after the president is elected, there are two major contests that highlight an otherwise barely noticed election cycle: governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey. Democrats currently lead in both, though their lead in Virginia seems light enough that there is still a decent chance of Republicans pulling out a victory. In New Jersey, however, the outlook is much bleaker for conservatives.
There are an array of problems that have led to the current situation. Governor Chris Christie’s popularity has taken a serious hit during his second term in office, and he has lost much of the support from independents who helped propel him to the Governor’s Mansion in two straight elections. While Christie was never as conservative as one of his counterparts in a deep red state, even his moderate conservatism has been a change of pace from the state GOP’s typical nominees.
Now, it appears, the pendulum has swung back the other way. In this year’s election, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was the establishment favorite to win the nomination. Her main opponent, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, viewed as more conservative on issues like abortion, had an uphill battle to win the nomination, and he lost the primary by more than 15 points. Guadagno’s position of favoring legal abortion-on-demand is fundamentally what makes political pundits consider her and others like her to be so “moderate,” but despite what some surely believe, this is not likely to do her any favors in the grand scheme of New Jersey politics.
The Democratic nomination, meanwhile, was very handily captured by Phil Murphy, a wealthy former banker who managed to command the support of the Democratic establishment even over experienced politicians. He has flooded the airwaves in New Jersey with commercials consistently touting that he will “defend a woman’s right to choose” and pushing a very partisan agenda. His campaign website even contains rhetoric which equates wanting to defund Planned Parenthood with misogyny:
Governor Christie sold out to right-wing special interests in order to further his own political ambitions. He has attacked women’s rights at every step, vetoing efforts to ensure equal pay and cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. Then, he became a lead surrogate for the most misogynistic campaign this country has seen.
Quinnipiac University has been the only somewhat regular pollster in this race so far. The most recent polling results released on June 14th give Murphy a massive 29-point lead over Guadagno. Name recognition for both candidates is also low for such a major race. Forty-seven percent of those polled have not heard enough about Murphy to form an opinion, while 50 percent state the same for Guadagno.
Summing up the state of the race, Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, has expressed pessimism about Guadagno’s chances of making up enough ground from this massive lead:
Once upon a time, New Jersey elections were peppy – looked on as a sign of where the nation was heading politically. This was a far from peppy primary and the first general election matchup between Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno doesn’t look like this race will go down to the wire.
The winds of fortune are certainly blowing against Republicans in New Jersey. While it is already a challenging state given the advantage in voter registration that the Democrats have held for many years, with a pro-abortion candidate like Guadagno unlikely to rally conservatives in the state, this election seems almost certain to see the Governor’s Mansion lost, in addition to losses in the state legislature. It can only be hoped that the GOP draws the correct lessons from this race once it has reached its likely conclusion.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore