Reading the gubernatorial primary tea leaves

With less than three months until the gubernatorial primary, we can start to read the tea leaves through Quinnipiac’s poll ending March 15. Former Ambassador Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno each lead in the June 6 primary election. Despite spending barrels of money, Murphy, and being our LG for over seven years, Guadagno, they are still “little known” said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. For those who seek a different candidate there remain plenty of “undecideds” to cultivate.


  • “In a general election matchup, Murphy leads Guadagno 47 – 25 percent, with 25 percent undecided.”
  • “Murphy gets 23 percent in a Democratic primary, with 6 percent for Assembly member John Wisniewski, 4 percent each for former U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Jim Johnson and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, and 2 percent for activist Bill Brennan. Most voters, 57 percent, are undecided.”
  • “In a Republican primary, Guadagno leads with 28 percent, followed by 18 percent for comedian Joe Piscopo, 3 percent for Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli, 2 percent for Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers and 1 percent for entrepreneur Joseph Rullo. Another 42 percent are undecided.”
  • “New Jersey voters disapprove 76 – 19 percent of the job Gov. Christopher Christie is doing, and most voters give him a D or an F for job performance.”
  • “U. S. Senator Cory Booker remains the most popular politician in New Jersey.”

Read the full Quinnipiac University Poll here.

Comments (2)

  1. Stephen Danley

    I’ll admit, I’m still trying to figure out what the “drumbeat” means here. I expected something much more competitive — before Sweeney and Fulop dropped out. Now, it feels like it’s over before it’s started on the Dems side. But also feels problematic that it’s over when over 50% of Dems haven’t turned their eyes towards the race yet.

  2. Rosi Efthim

    Yes. Phil Murphy really gamed New Jersey Democratic politics – and brilliantly. He’s hired pretty much everybody; he’s monopolized, or at the least taken up, a lot of consultant talent in this state. And at least one of them was smart enough to figure out that bypassing the ‘normal’ primary selection process of putting yourself out before Democratic county conventions and instead lining up county chairs in quiet, non-public, non-transparent insider verbal contracts – could work. Those insider convos almost certainly came with a lot of flattery and – just like with Corzine – big checks were spread out widely and generously to make county chairs’ dreams come true for how that money could power their county operation.

    It was brilliant, and yes, it looks over before it really started. But that’s only if you think the county Democratic committees should decide endorsements themselves, small-d democratically, and not simply follow the will of their chairs months later. The calculating way to look at this – and apparently Murphy’s way – is to go straight to where the real power is in a machine state, in a state where the chairs have wayyy too much power and frequently use it to make unitary decisions they shouldn’t have to.

    But of course, this is exactly what happened during the 2016 presidential election. All insider action, big money, and agreements before the action even gets underway. It’s a risk.

    All of this calculation aside, I think it’s important to say that I don’t think Phil Murphy is a bad actor here, or would make a bad governor. And I think it’s important to say that he started reaching out to people (and not just county chairs) well more than a year ago. Questioning the process he employed is separate from evaluating him as a candidate. And the “problem” of county chairs endorsing him last October en masse says at least as much about all of them as it does Murphy, and not good things. They knew the political press would report their endorsement as Murphy ‘getting’ those counties. And they knew they could then guide their voting members 6 months later to confirm the choice they made privately last year.


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