In latest ad, Murphy puts Trump at center of campaign

Published: Sep. 19, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy’s challenger in the upcoming election is former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, but in his latest TV ad it sounds Murphy puts former President Donald Trump squarely at the center of the debate.

The governor’s campaign invoked “Trump’s extreme agenda” in their latest attack ad against Republican nominee Ciattarelli in an attempt to tie the former assemblyman to Trump, who remains widely unpopular by a majority of voters in New Jersey.

The ad ripped Ciattarelli for attending a so-called Stop the Steal rally in support of Trump in November 2020. He’s quoted saying “we’re working hard to make sure things go our way.”

Ciattarelli, who congratulated President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their election victory in a Jan. 20 social media post, called the 30-second TV spot a “misleading negative” ad through a campaign spokeswoman and said he didn’t know it was a “Stop the Steal” rally.

Rallying Democrats to the polls by invoking Trump’s name isn’t just a strategy being employed in New Jersey.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom repeatedly invoked Trump’s name and policies during his recall election, which he won overwhelmingly. In Virginia, the only other state with a gubernatorial election this year, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly tied his GOP opponent to Trump.

Political observers in the state say it’s a smart move by Murphy, who hopes to be the first Democrat to be re-elected governor since Brendan Byrne in 1977, although voters went for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in consecutive elections in 2001 and 2005.

“It’s clear they’re trying to tie Ciattarelli to the extreme wing of the party that was soundly rejected by New Jersey voters,” Patrick Murray, the director of Monmouth University Polling, said.

A September 2019 poll from Monmouth showed 37% approved and 56% disapproved of the job Trump was doing. And he earned a negative 30%-64% voter rating in the state’s six solidly Democratic House districts, according to the poll.

He lost to Biden in the Garden State by nearly 16 percentage points.

“It’s not clear whether that’s a necessary tactic right now considering where the state is or whether it’s just an effort to remind voters why they voted Democratic in the past few years,” Murray said.

Ashley Koning, the director of Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, agreed.

“We thought with Trump leaving office that maybe Murphy didn’t have his hat to hang that on. But he does,” she said. “We’ve always known the biggest challenge for Ciattarelli was how he was going to move forward in the campaign … and in this era of Trumpism.”

“That is one of the most damaging things Murphy can do is keep tying him to Trump.” Konig added.

Konig also noted how Trump “never had high favorables or job approval among most New Jerseyans,” including independent voters — which any Republican hopeful needs to capitalize on in New Jersey where registered Democrats outnumber GOP voters by more than a million people, according to state data.

There are also more than 2.3 million unaffiliated voters in the state.

“We know that it’s a numbers game,” Koning said. “And we know that independents weren’t crazy about Trump either.”

Tuesday’s results in California also are a positive sign for Murphy, Koning said.

Voters soundly rejected an attempt to recall Newsom. By making the race into a referendum on Trump and his supporters’ “extreme” resistance to coronavirus precautions, Newsom offered a formula for survival that could translate to succes in next year’s midterm elections, political observers noted.

“I would say it definitely bodes well for the narrative for a Murphy win and going into a second term,” she said.

Murphy is favored to win in November, according to multiple polls.

He held a 16-percentage-point advantage according to the Monmouth University Poll released last month. A little more than half of the registered voters surveyed — 52% — supported Murphy over Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman.

Broken down by region, Murphy led in northern New Jersey 60% to 29% and in the central part of the state 52% to 38%, according to the poll. Ciattarelli had 45% to Murphy’s 40% in southern New Jersey.

In June, Murphy had a 15-point lead — 48% to 33% — over Ciattarelli in a Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll and a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll showed Murphy with a 26 point lead — 52% to 26% — lead over Ciattarelli.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-09-20 03:39:56 -0700