Three Takeaways from the Second #NJGovDebate

Let’s be honest. For those of us in South Jersey, it was pretty tough to flip over from the 76ers opening night to watch the final New Jersey Governor’s debate. But that’s why we’re here at Blue Jersey — to watch, tweet, and start a convo that you can join while cheering for Joel Embiid.

For those who want to catch up on the debate, here video:

WATCH LIVE: #NewJersey gubernatorial candidates face off in the final debate before the election. #NJGovDebateREAD MORE:

Posted by CBS Philly on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

And here are my three quick takeaways from the debate:

  1. This debate was about connecting with regular New Jersey families. That’s why Murphy focuses so directly on tying Guadagno to Christie; so that she has to own the struggles families have felt over the past few years. It’s also why Guadagno focuses on Murphy’s wealth and career at Goldman Sachs. But more importantly, the race has become a testing ground for what policies resonate with those who are struggling. Is it Murphy’s free community college proposal? Guadagno’s “circuit-breaker” tax cut? Does Murphy’s focus on schools and social justice connect with New Jersey families trying to get by? Do Guadagno’s scare tactics about immigration? Do residents see tax subsidies for corporations or Amazon as job opportunities, or handouts to corporations? Those policies were at the center of many of the sharp exchanges tonight, and that’s why this race is so important not only for New Jersey’s future but for 2018 and 2020 nationally.
  2. The race didn’t change. On a basic level, the fundamentals of this race tilt towards Murphy. Guadagno has to carry the baggage of an extremely unpopular administration, voters often are looking for change after multiple cycles of the same administration, and New Jersey is blue. That is what lets Murphy play it relatively safe — he’s playing not to win, but to avoid a game-changing moment. It lets him dodge the occasional question, and be vague on the occasional policy (though that strategy has dangers as well, as we saw in the last presidential cycle). It’s also driving the aggression from the Guadagno campaign, which, after spending significant effort to position herself as a moderate on issues such as Dreamers and green jobs, has taken a significant nativist turn. Her campaign (sadly) needs the oxygen of a Trump-style base-rallying screed (or in this case, ad) against immigrants. It’s ugly and says a lot about where the Republican party is that a strategy to energize the base has to embrace this ideology.
  3. Murphy still has a lot of room for growth as a retail politician. He lost of a few of those back-and-forths  emerge  in a debate context. His joke when a spectator yelled out “answer the question” was cringeworthy, and every New Jerseyian raised an eyebrow when he referenced grapefruit and broccoli as his favorite fruit and vegetable. Let’s just say that didn’t play as well as “New Jersey tomatoes”. There’s some growing pains to be expected here, and Murphy has come a long way since early campaign appearances, but there’s still opportunities to improve, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that grapefruit moment emerge as a meme through the duration of the campaign.

We’ll have more coverage over the next few days, and are always eager to hear your thoughts. We also live-tweeted the debate — check that out if you want our real-time commentary. Here’s a taste of that coverage:


As always, would love to hear your thoughts!

Comments (2)

  1. vmars

    North Jersey kinda had the Yankees fifth game of the ALCS.:-)

    1. Stephen Danley (Post author)

      I choose to ignore the overlapping portion of the Ven diagram between fellow progressives and Yankees fans…



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