InsiderNJ’s Who’s Up and Who’s Down: Week of the Chamber Train


Phil Murphy

The man  can move around a train. He’s got that uncanny political ability to burn a gaze of real, genuine concern into the listener while maintaining a fast moving tempo toward the next outstretched hand. The favorite to win the Democratic nomination for governor this year proved once again to be a charming and dynamic presence, not offending anyone – and prompting Gov. Chris Christie to lay down a stern warning.

Jack Ciattarelli

No, he wasn’t on the trip this year, but if you had a conversation with any of the ghoulish, wretched faces reflected off the top of the magnificent polished bar top at the Marriott Wardman Hotel, you’d have found a lot of receptivity – on both sides of the aisle – for the handsome Raritan Republican businessman turned winning Somerset County elected official.

Scott Goldstein

Is this guy great or what? Calm, composed, decorous. He’s everything you don’t see on the rest of the Chamber Train. The N.J. Chamber’s communications director once again did a tremendous job of transforming into coherent English any number of glib, self-serving, and guttural utterances emanating from everywhere.

Tom Bracken

With grace and gravitas, the president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce presided over a 15-car train of controlled rowdiness and a grand ballroom crammed with dignitaries still trying to figure out how to act now that Donald J. Trump has reconfigured the expectations of public behavior.

Joseph W. Tobin

You didn’t get the sense that there were too many practicing Catholics on this trip. Or maybe the idea is they’ll hit the confessionals tomorrow. But the new cardinal of Newark was a hit with the crowd at the Marriott. He thought he had peaked when the Pope promoted him to his current position in the Church. “And then there was the train,” he told an appreciate crowd.


Kim Guadagno

Every time Christie steps on her in  public, you can picture some operative sitting in a room somewhere with a “Kim!” button on saying, “Good. He’s at 18%. The more he disses her or refuses to acknowledge her, the better our chances of turning her into a sympathetic figure.” But the reality is these are platforms and pulpits where Guadagno could presumably shine – or at least try to shine – the chamber of commerce, of course, a natural setting for the pro-business LG. But once again, she lacked a forum while Murphy ran around looking like the next governor.

John Wisniewski

He did win the endorsement of the Princeton Democratic Party this past Sunday, so it wasn’t all bad for Wiz, who’s running a real campaign. Certainly his campaign targets the people who aren’t on that chamber train, so he didn’t need to be on it to make an impression. And yet, Wiz – a longtime insider – lacks the resume to convincingly stand on the tracks with a bullhorn and rail against the fat cats. So he lost an edge this week as Murphy dominated.

Chris Christie

First of all, it was a great speech, and instructive in why great speeches from a purely dramatic, Shakespearean perspective, don’t require anything other than a bull-headed and willful disregard of reality. Just take a look at MacBeth – “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/creeps in this petty pace from day to day…” Nothing in the lead character ever suggested he’d have anything other than a small vision, a condition that obviously propelled his overwhelming ambition. The character is set, the play written. Now all he has to do is speak the lines. And they’re great! And so they were too with Christie on Thursday night – much better than U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s attempt to “inspire.” Christie used the chamber trip to talk up his own accomplishments with teary-eyed commitment to the role of kicked-to-the-curb illustrious public servant committed, when it’s all said and done, after all, amid the scorn of public opinion, to family. No wrought damage in the public square, no chaos, could ever harm the shrine  of one’s own intimates and one’s own bloodline.

Carol Bianchi

By all accounts an absolutely class act, the Bernards mayor (and future star of Somerset Republican politics) won’t get the nod this year to run  for freeholder as that replacement for retiring Freeholder Peter Palmer.



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