Against the backdrop of a fast-intensifying Nov. 2nd gubernatorial contest, President Joe Biden appeared in New Jersey today at the side of incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy.
Greeted on the ground at Newark Liberty by the likes of Murphy, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., and Speaker Craig Coughlin, the President went to East End Elementary School in North Plainfield first, and is headed to Newark.
Murphy insisted Biden is not here for purely political purposes.
“He’s here [on the subject of] expanding pre-k – we’re leading the nation on that – and the other is infrastructure, and the first step [replacement of the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River] that will add rail tunnels under the Hudson River,” Murphy told CBS News.
For his part, Republican nominee for Governor Jack Ciattarelli hopes the presence of Biden in New Jersey plays right into his strategy with independent voters benumbed by Democratic Party gridlock in the nation’s capital.
“Joe Biden is not up to the job in Washington,” Ciattarelli declares in a YouTube ad, before segueing to a critique of Murphy.
To that point, from CNN’s Chris Cillizza:
Roughly nine months into his presidency, Joe Biden is on the verge of writing his name into the history books — and not in a good way.
National Republicans gleefully doubled down today as the President made the rounds in a state where he drubbed Republican Donald Trump last year 57-41%. “Joe Biden’s approval rating is plummeting and now, when it counts the most, Phil Murphy is losing ground rapidly. No matter how they spin it, Biden and Murphy only have costly failures to offer the Garden State,” said RNC Spokesperson Rachel Lee.
Democrats still mostly see the Republican as a nuisance, and already a casualty of raw numbers (1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey) and his own misstatements on the COVID-19 pandemic. “Children are not vulnerable to this virus,” the former assemblyman says in a pro-Murphy ad, whose narrator pronounces, “Trump lied, and Ciattarelli repeats it. Extreme. Dangerous. Wrong.” New Jersey Republican Committee Chairman Bob Hugin today opined that Murphy’s late reliance on party stars demonstrates desperation, but allies of the governor say none of the bigshots who have flown in over the last number of days – Biden among them – would want to be seen with a loser.
They use the cameo as an argument for seriousness and mopping up in the aftermath of GOP mismanagement and damage, including $12.3 billion for New Jersey as part of the federal infrastructure bill.
The presence of Biden today to advance a key part of a Gateway tunnel project stalled during the Chris Christie years merely punctuates their overwhelming confidence – despite the nag of one tightened poll – heading into next Tuesday.
The GOP says Gateway isn’t all that’s stalled.
Derailment of the infrastructure bill speaks to Democrats’ inability to govern, they argue.
Ultimately, federal heft inevitably contains a political dimension here ahead of the November 2nd election.
The President this morning made his second appearance in as many months in Somerset County, a battleground where Democrats have wrested control from the GOP during the Trump years. Murphy has strong ties to Somerset, where his party wants to hold onto its super-majority on the Board off Commissioners, while also propelling Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and his running mates to victory in the Somerset-centric 16th. North Plainfield sits adjacent to a town occupied by a Republican challenger to party power here.
Second stop Kearny?
It sits in Hudson County, just over the bridge from Newark, the state’s most populous city, with an enormous plurality of Democratic Party voters at the core of Murphy’s base.