Baby Boomer Democrats like to boast that Bill Clinton transformed New Jersey from a battleground into a solid blue state, but consider the fact that Dems have yet to get one of their own reelected governor since Brendan T. Byrne in 1977.
Over the course of that same period of time, Republican governors pursuing reelection, by contrast, have gone 3-0.
Republican Tom Kean, Sr. won the governorship in 1981 and overwhelmingly won reelection in 1985 (71-24% over Peter Shapiro).
Democrat Jim Florio won a first term in 1989, then – on the heels of his tax increase to cover a projected $3 billion deficit – lost a narrow reelection bid to Republican Christie Todd Whitman, who won by 26,093 votes out of a total 2,505,964 votes.
In her reelection bid in 1997, Whitman narrowly scraped by, beating her Democratic challenger Jim McGreevey by one percentage point.
McGreevey won the governorship in 2001 but resigned in 2004 amid scandal. His elected successor, Democrat Jon Corzine, won the seat in 2005, but failed to win reelection in 2009, losing a close contest to former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, a Republican, (48.5 to 44.9%).
In 2013, Christie easily won reelection over Democratic opponent Barbara Buono (60.3 to 38.2%).
The last time a Democratic governor won reelection almost didn’t turn out that way, as Democratic Governor Byrne earned the nickname “One Term Byrne” on his way to facing Republican nominee Ray Bateman. Years later, Byrne, in fact, tried to publicly buck up the flagging Corzine on the 2009 campaign trail by reminding voters of his own reelection difficulties. But after trailing by double digits in the polls, Byrne won a decisive reelction: 55.71 to 41.81%.
The last Republican governor whom the voters limited to one term immediately preceded Byrne: William Cahil.
The Democratic governor who preceded Byrne: Richard Hughes, also served two terms.
But the record of Democratic governors since Byrne – New Jersey’s version of the Schrum Curse – is so ingrained – that one hears inevitability on this current campaign cycle about how Democrat Phil Murphy will win the general election this year (the opposite party wins statewide in New Jersey as the party that wins the White House the year previous), and then – like the Democrats of recent memory – lose reelection.