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The source sat on his stool at the bar dissecting Governor Phil Murphy.
This was a South Jersey person, close to the Sweeney-Norcross nexus.
He outlined a sustained statehouse outmaneuvering of the front office.
InsiderNJ interjected with a scenario.
What if Joe Biden lands the presidency and Murphy gets a Hanoi helicopter ticket out of town to the administration?
“You guys are close to Biden, aren’t you? Can’t you make it happen? Can’t you influence a movement in that direction?”
The source stared back in befuddled bewilderment.
“Why would we want to do that?”
There was no trace of irony.
The question sounded humorlessly in the bar.
It was a stunning confession.
Amid all the “up and out” talk in Trenton as maybe the only way to end the standoff, short of someone going to jail (but then there’s always more time to plot in jail, and intensified anger on the other side of jail), the source would rather have Murphy in New Jersey to kick around rather than promote him in order to open up a statewide power slot.
“I feel bad for Murphy,” one of his allies admitted, a North Jersey Democrat. “He gets to stick around – as a punching bag.”
Still, the Biden option lingered in the minds of insiders, even as the governor’s team talked up the near inevitability of reelection. The South doesn’t have the strength to win statewide (see Rob Andrews’ campaigns), and the most progressive candidate would find him or herself encumbered by the Norcross albatross.
Wynona (unbought and unbossed) Lipman wouldn’t be proud.
So a Biden administration offload seemed in bounds.
But there were complications.
One, Biden (or another Democrat, most of whom were polling in single digits) had to beat President Donald Trump.
Two, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) had to drop out of the contest.
He was bottling up Murphy and (was this another nefarious South Jersey scheme?) preventing him from getting on the Biden train early. As long as Booker stayed in the contest (and his allies kept calling South Carolina his firewall), he prevented the governor of New Jersey from making a meaningful endorsement. If indeed the design was to keep Murphy around to force him into a 2021 reelection posture to do with him what Chris Christie did to Jon Corzine, would Booker receive counsel from establishment Democrats in New Jersey to stick it out to the bitter (such as it was) end.
You need to go way past South Carolina, Cory.
You got to go to Connecticut, Rhode Island.
Biden should not be allowed to pocket Pennsylvania uncontested.
All to keep Murphy bound and gagged.
In this environment, it wasn’t an outrageous possibility.
But it was unlikely.
If Booker pulled the plug early, and Murphy jumped on board, and Biden won (the ifs were piling up), was there a position that would satiate an ego sustained by Goldman Sachs, an ambassadorship and statewide executive office?
Secretary of State, a Murphy ally told InsiderNJ.
That’s all he’d be interested in, the source insisted.
Ah, so his sights were higher than his old Goldman albatross friend Corzine, who – it is said – had wanted treasury in an Obama Administration, didn’t get it, presumably because Hillary Clinton kept him him in the trunk and off the O Team through an interminable campaign, and forced him to run again in 2009, where Christie bumped him off.
Secretary of State Murphy.
Did it fit?
The Kerrys and Clintons had gotten old.
Secretary of State Buttigieg on the strength of his popularity and a seven-month stint in uniform in Afghanistan?
It didn’t feel right.
The South Bend, Indiana narrative made him feel more like HUD secretary.
Short of a meltdown by either candidate, Kamala Harris would be Biden’s running mate, or so ran the CW.
Secretary of State Booker?
He was on the foreign relations committee.
But would his seeming default position of love conquers all rattle America’s world enemies?
There was another New Jersey guy, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) sitting as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (who might have once  been Clinton’s secretary of state).
Short circuit him, Bob, one could hear the most ardent anti-Murphy voices pleading.
Keep him here.
Don’t let Biden find him.
But Menendez on some level had to feel a little loyalty to Murphy.
Murphy had refused to throw him under the bus during Menendez’s 2017 corruption trial when Kim Guadagno had prodded him.
Wouldn’t do it.
Endorsed him when he ran in 2018.
But then so did South Jersey and all the connective tissue attached to that Brain Trust.
Would Menendez tell Biden no, in order to perpetuate the war here, unabated the senior senator’s own hunger for parochial political intrigue, or – for the sake of peace in his home state, even if it arguably meant a wobbly complement to the war office – talk up Murphy’s foreign policy credentials?
Ambassadorship to Germany. Close ties to Menendez. Diplomatic.
Would Norcross (supposedly close to Biden) big-foot any talk of secretary of state for a chance to continue to make Murphy miserable in 2021.
Can’t beat him, George.
Make him sweat at least.
Force him to be uncomfortable.
But was that enough?
Was it truly that petty?
The source at the bar stared back unsmiling.
Norcross and company – all of them – would have to want Murphy out of here.
Frees up a seat.
If Booker sticks around (and certainly there was the possibility he could go to the cabinet).
Give him what he wants.
He thinks this is tough?
Let Putin torture Phil.
The Democratic establishment could retake Jersey.
Was the source merely pretending to enjoy the prospect of a continued statewide brawl in the name of satisfying a sadistic streak, while coolly plotting the upwardly mobile offload of Murphy?
Of course, Norcross world was more volatile than usual at the moment.
Maybe the source was merely off balance in a warzone he had always previously known to swing inevitably to a southern advantage.