The Monmouth Poll is considered to be the Gold Standard of polling in New Jersey. And under the leadership of its Executive Director, Patrick Murphy, the poll now has a top-flight national reputation as well, rated as A-plus by Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight Blog.
So when the Monmouth Poll releases its findings, New Jersey political players and journalists stop what they are doing to evaluate the latest news from Sir Patrick. And if the New Jersey Republican Party was a stock, there would have been a substantial amount of short selling by its shareholders last week.
The news released from the Monmouth Poll last Wednesday, May 5, 2021 regarding NJGOP prospects in this November’s gubernatorial election was most discouraging. In a nutshell, incumbent Governor Phil Murphy continues to enjoy substantially positive job approval (57%-31%) and reelect (48%-43%) ratings. While not as high as before, the Murphy numbers continue to presage a most comfortable reelection margin. https://www.insidernj.com/monmouth-poll-murphy-job-approval-rating-57/
Yet the following news, released by the Monmouth Poll the next day, Thursday, May 6, 2021, would be even worse for the NJGOP. New Jerseyans, by a wide margin (66%-27%) say that Governor Murphy is doing a good job handling the Coronavirus Pandemic, and nearly as many say the restrictions he has imposed to slow the spread of Covid-19 have been appropriate. Specifically, 58 percent of New Jerseyans say the measures Murphy took to slow the spread of coronavirus have been appropriate, while 27 percent say they went too far and 14 percent say they didn’t go far enough.
The news regarding the Murphy management of the state Pandemic response is absolutely devastating to the hopes of all GOP gubernatorial aspirants. Virtually every credible New Jersey GOP strategist has based Republican aspirations of defeating Phil Murphy on the possibility that the electorate would judge him negatively on his handling of the Pandemic. Instead, the opposite turns out to be true. Murphy’s handling of the Pandemic gives him a solid electoral advantage this November.
The Democrats have a registration advantage of 1,000,000 voters. In order for the Republicans to have a scintilla of a chance to oust an incumbent Democratic governor, two conditions must be extant.
First, the incumbent governor must have negative job approval and reelect numbers. Second, there must be a compelling issue upon which the NJGOP can base an effective negative campaign.
Neither of these two conditions exist. The absence of any compelling negative issue against Murphy is particularly ruinous to the hopes of New Jersey Republicans to recapture the governorship in this election. Unless there is a totally unanticipated crisis or scandal involving Phil Murphy prior to November, the Republicans have as much chance of defeating him as right-wing extremist kook Seth Grossman has of receiving a racial understanding award from the New Jersey NAACP.
In short, regarding the 2021 New Jersey gubernatorial election, this rodeo is over for the NJGOP, folks. Yet not all is bleak for the future of the New Jersey Republican Party.
There is an anti-Trump Republican office holder in the Garden State who will emerge from both the current national Republican civil war and the likely NJGOP debacle this November as the winter book favorite for the 2025 Republican gubernatorial nomination. He is highly regarded by both Never Trumpers and grass roots conservatives as well. He can also overcome the twin albatrosses of Donald Trump and Chris Christie and lead the NJGOP into a more hopeful era.
This Republican will face Democrat Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill for the governorship in the 2025 general election. I’ll reveal his identity in my next column. Stay tuned.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.