All signs point toward Phil Murphy winning the governorship, Democrats maintaining control of the legislature, and passage of the two worthwhile Public Questions. But only death and taxes are a given. Plenty may yet go wrong. Everything from the possible to the almost impossible – a serious weather event (Sandy occurred at about this time of year), a last minute ad, some dramatic last moment revelation about a candidate, President Trump attacks North Korea, or unfriendly aliens land in our state. More importantly NJ is only 39th in the nation in voter turnout, and there are warning signs in the most recent polls.
Democrat Phil Murphy has the upper hand.
- The advantage of 2.1 million registered Democrats vs 1.2 million Republicans.
- According to ELEC Murphy’s report as of 10/12/17 indicated he had $5,445,000 in Cash on Hand, and Kim Guadagno had only $74,317. (Other independent sources also aid the candidates.)
- Support of national Democratic leaders – 2 Clintons, Obama, Biden and others all recently rallying in NJ, particularly to get out the vote.
- Other endorsements: His five Democratic primary opponents, the local party in all 21 counties, The Record, Star-Ledger (tepid), and many more from labor organizations, progressive organizations, faith leaders and elected leaders.
- Polling: Real Clear Politics’ average of five polls in the last 30 days shows he has a lead of 15.5 points. In all 17 polls since March Murphy has led by 11 or more points.
- A weak opponent who was under Christie’s unpopular shadow as LG, based a campaign around cutting property taxes over which some are dubious, more recently has been playing the anti-immigrant card, and has always appeared weak on understanding policy issues.
So what could go wrong?
Just because there are more Dems in NJ doesn’t mean enough will show up. Former President Clinton while stumping for Murphy in Paramus warned “Too many of us were AWOL in non-presidential election years.
A N.Y. Times analysis begins with pointing out that voter turnout has varied depending on the type of election. Elections with higher offices on the ballot generally have greater turnout, but even comparing similar types of elections, the turnout in New Jersey has been steadily declining since around 1960. In 2013 in the early Special election for Cory Booker the turnout was 25%. Later in 2013 in the gubernatorial election 40% of registered voters cast a ballot – the lowest turnout for a gubernatorial election since 1924. In 2015 just 22% of registered voters participated in the election in which the Assembly led the ballot. And let’s not forget that according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census’ most recent data, only 64.3% of the eligible population in New Jersey registered to vote in 2012, ranking us 39th in the USA.
Let’s look deeper into four of the most recent polls, which raise potential warning signs.
- Quinnipiac: 83% of likely voters have made up their minds, but such does not guarantee they will vote. Murphy’s 23 years at Goldman Sachs creates a negative impact on the opinion of 30 percent of likely voters. Taxes are the most important issue in deciding how they will vote in the governor’s race, and Guadagno has been fierce about cutting them.
- Emerson: Perhaps dragging down Murphy is Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who is currently facing a highly-publicized corruption trial. On the issue of Sanctuary Cities which Murphy supports, thirty-nine percent of voters support sanctuary cities, versus 43% who are opposed. Both candidates are maintaining high “neutral/no opinion” numbers – 32% for Murphy and 26% for Guadagno.
- Stockton: About a quarter of respondents are not familiar with either major gubernatorial candidate. The poll finds 87% support a proposed Constitutional amendment to dedicate funds from settlements of state pollution cases to environmental restoration or protection. However, only 56% support borrowing $125 million for public libraries.
- Fairleigh Dickinson: Among the large group of independents who don’t align with either party, both candidates get about a quarter of their support (25% Guadagno; 26% Murphy; but 26% are undecided). In the first debate neither candidate hit a home run. Only 33% of likely voters said they watched or listened to the debate. An overwhelming majority of voters say our political system is broken (69%) – a disincentive to vote. A third of all likely voters intend to support Republican candidates for the state legislature, and 49 percent support Democratic candidates, but Independents split about even, with an edge being given to Republicans (27%) versus Democrats (21%).
The bottom line
As NJ Spotlight indicates, “Getting the word out about casting ballots by mail could help drive up voter turnout, but it’s pretty much treated as a secret known only to the few in the Garden State. Voting by mail started 45 days before the General Election. Last year saw the largest percentage of votes cast by mail – 10.5% in the primary and 9.8% in the general election. This year’s primary, however, saw the percentage of people sending in their ballots drop in half.
So before next Tuesday help get out the vote and on Tuesday be sure to vote yourself if you have not already done so.