HACKENSACK – “Florio Free in ’93” was the Republican war cry 28 years ago this fall.
Times certainly have changed, but with the 2021 gubernatorial campaign upon us, Jack Ciattarelli has a catch phrase of his own.
“One and done in ’21,” the presumed GOP candidate proclaimed Wednesday night to a happy and hopeful group of Bergen County Republicans.
Recent history is something state Republicans enjoy bringing up. It has, of course, been more than 40 years since a Democratic governor was re-elected.
The aforementioned Jim Florio, Jim McGreevey and Jon Corzine all failed to get re-elected for various reasons.
One of the core arguments of Ciattarelli’s stump speech, which he presented this evening, is that Gov. Phil Murphy is “not New Jersey,” The governor was born in Massachusetts.
But Ciattarelli’s point goes deeper than mere geography.
What he aims to do is to portray Murphy as an out-of-touch elitist who simply has no feel for the nitty gritty tendencies of the Garden State.
“How about we elect a guy whose family has been here for a hundred years?” the Republican said.
Partisan crowds love this stuff, and they love it even more when Ciattarelli ends his speech by saying Phil Murphy is not New Jersey and that in seven months, he will not be our governor.
How the larger mass of voters will feel is the question.
Even some Republicans acknowledge that the pandemic gave Murphy instant visibility and that polls say a majority of the public approves of how he’s handled it.
But there are other polls.
Ciattarelli likes touting a recent Monmouth University poll that showed that only a minority of voters want Murphy to have another term. On the other side of things, that poll also gave the governor an approval rating of 57 percent.
Polls can be contradictory and it’s still five before the election.
Referencing the poll most favorable to him, Ciattarelli said, “Guys, it’s there for us – all we need is the right candidate.”
That was the only comment – and a veiled one at that – about next week’s primary.
At the moment, Ciattarelli is not the nominee. He is being challenged from the right by Hirsh Singh and Phil Rizzo. His reference about the “right candidate” is his notion that he (Ciattarelli) is the only Republican who can win a general election.
Ciattarelli announced his candidacy in early 2020. So, he already has been doing this for more than a year. That has not dulled his enthusiasm.
“I’m confident we’re going to win,” he said.
Just to complete the historical touch, the last Democratic governor to be reelected was Brendan Byrne in 1977.
Old timers may recall that Republicans had a catchy slogan back then too. It was OTB for One-term Byrne.
It didn’t work.