MOUNT OLIVE – Jack Ciattarelli wanted to know if the 70 or so people listening to him in a local bar Tuesday night had seen the latest Monmouth poll.
The one that gave Phil Murphy an approval rating of 57 percent and an even higher rating on his handling of the pandemic?
No, not that one.
Ciattarelli wanted to talk about how the poll found that only 48 percent of respondents said the governor deserved re-election.
“Less than half said they were going to vote for him,” Ciattarelli said.
“Yeah,” someone yelled from the crowd.
Ciattarelli’s stop at the Market Tavern was not a fundraiser; just a meet and greet with supporters and whoever else showed up.
Many politicos were there.
The list included state Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblyman Hal Wirths from LD-24. Mount Olive is the only Morris County town in the mostly Sussex County district.
Frank Pallotta, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in CD-5 last year and who plans to run again in 2022, was there. No, this is not the Fifth District, but Pallotta reasoned that the event would draw people from Sussex, which it did, and which is in CD-5. There were also many county and local GOP officials.
Laura Ali, the chair of the Morris GOP, was upbeat, predicting that “No matter what you hear from your Democratic neighbors,” a Ciattarelli-driven train is ready to rush through the county. What happens in Morris is critical. Long a GOP stronghold, a majority of voters went for Joe Biden last year.
This wasn’t a crowd that needed any convincing, but that didn’t stop Ciattarelli from giving his stump speech, proclaiming that Murphy has failed to keep residents safe and businesses profitable. And as his wont, he said the governor is moving the state too far to the left and that he simply doesn’t understand New Jersey.
OK, but what about his 57 percent approval rating in a poll Ciattarelli cited himself?
Ciattarelli said he thinks the governor’s support is soft and that his campaign polling has Murphy’s approval rating at 54 percent, a little below what it was in the Monmouth sampling.
Before he gets to Murphy, Ciattarelli has to survive a primary where he’s being challenged from the right by Hirsh Singh, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate last year, and Phil Rizzo, a pastor from Morris County.
He said he is “absolutely” taking the challenge seriously, but, “There’s only one candidate who can win in November.”
That, of course, would be him.
Also on hand Tuesday night was William J. Hayden, the chair of the Skylands Tea Party, and a man with strong conservative credentials.
Hayden, who is running unopposed for GOP state committeeman from Sussex in the June primary, acknowledged that his views may drift further right than Ciattarelli’s do.
But in a concession to reality, he observed that winning the general election has to be the priority.