New Jersey’s Governor’s Race: A Referendum on Chris Christie

In New Jersey, Democratic candidate Phil Murphy and Republican candidate Kim Guadagno face off in the race to succeed Chris Christie as New Jersey’s governor. The general election will take place on November 7th.

The polls show that Democrat Phil Murphy is far ahead, leading Guadagno by 10-15 points, far outside the margin of error. Murphy’s substantial lead has been credited to the fact that New Jersey is looking to get away from current Governor Chris Christie. Right now, Governor Christie’s approval rating is the lowest it has been throughout his eight years as governor and the lowest of any New Jersey governor in history, so it’s evident that New Jerseyans are ready for a change of pace. Republican Guadagno served as Christie’s Lieutenant Governor for his eight years in office, so voters are skeptical that she is too similar to Christie. Guadagno’s relationship to Governor Christie has definitely negatively impacted her popularity among a majorly blue state looking to return to a Democratic governor.

For Murphy, however, the effect of Guadagno’s relationship to Governor Christie has been beneficial. Murphy, a former US ambassador to Germany and a former Goldman Sachs banking executive who has never held elected office before, has gained plenty of supporters who are unhappy with the current governor. Murphy is in a lucky position where his popularity is almost inevitable thanks to Christie’s low approval rating and his opponent’s connection to Christie.

People following the New Jersey gubernatorial race have began to notice a shift in Guadagno’s campaign strategy. This shift can be attributed most likely to her negative poll results and the hesitance of many voters to support her because of her close proximity to Christie. Recently, Guadagno has started to focus much more of her campaign on “Trump-like” issues. For example, while both the candidates have mostly been focused on property taxes, Guadagno has lately been much more outspoken about immigration issues, as seen in the first debate.

Guadagno’s new strategy could help her gain support of more Trump supporters, but in a state as blue as New Jersey, it may push more people away. As seen in past New Jersey gubernatorial elections, the Republican candidates almost always come across as moderate, rather than far right, to try and win over the more conservative Democrats. So it will be interesting to see how Guadagno’s choice to do the opposite of this will play out. Overall, the election on November 7th will be telling of New Jersey’s political climate; a win for Murphy would prove the desire for change in New Jersey’s government while a win for Guadagno would illustrate a different side of New Jersey in support of Trump-like tactics.

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