As I wrote in my Insider NJ column on Friday, June 28, 2019, my view is that the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination will become a two-person contest between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, with Elizabeth Warren, the leading Progressive Democrat in the race, running a distant third. If neither Biden nor Harris locks up the race early, the Tuesday, June 2, 2020 New Jersey primary will be a critical battleground and prize in determining the winner of the national Democratic Party presidential sweepstakes.
The ongoing internecine Garden State Democratic warfare is having a definite impact already on the New Jersey presidential politics of 2020. As I have written, while the Democratic insider triumvirate of South Jersey party boss George Norcross, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin are currently prevailing in policy matters requiring legislative approval, Governor Phil Murphy has far outdistanced them in terms of retaining the loyalty of rank-and-file New Jersey Democrats.
Murphy’s continuing high popularity level in Democratic grassroots New Jersey will make his endorsement the key early focal point for both Biden and Kamala in the New Jersey primary. In a sense, he is the ballgame, while the presidential preference of the Norcross-Sweeney-Coughlin triumvirate is a matter of monumental irrelevancy.
Plus, when it comes to chairing a campaign against Donald Trump, George Norcross, who has been a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Country Club and has attended Trump’s New Year’s Eve Party, has all the credibility of the late Elizabeth Taylor giving lectures on monogamy and lifelong marriage.
The problem for the Governor, however, is that he has currently pledged his support to Senator Cory Booker, who has two chances for the Democratic presidential nomination: Slim and none. Booker continues to be burdened by an abjectly low standing in the polls and the lack of a coherent compelling message.
And Booker is in the process of destroying his own credibility on race. By opening the door to a meeting with Louis Farrakhan (https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/booker-says-wont-stop-meeting-with-louis-farrakhan/amp), a vile anti-Semite and hate monger while attacking Joe Biden on race, Cory Booker is distinguishing himself as a first rate phony.
From this point on, I fail to see how any of my fellow Jews can vote for Cory Booker. Perhaps a journalist will ask Booker why he is tougher on Biden than he is on Farrakhan.
Last September, I wrote a column for Insider NJ, “Look Out Cory – Here Comes Kamala!” (https://www.insidernj.com/look-cory-comes-kamala/). In the column, I described Booker and Kamala as being the two contenders for the winner of the “Democratic Star Quality Bracket.” I stated unequivocally that Kamala “is in the process of eclipsing him (Booker).”
The complete eclipse of the Planet Cory is happening even sooner than I thought. He will withdraw from the race soon after the Saturday, February 29, 2020 South Carolina primary after finishing an abysmally low fourth. At that point, Phil Murphy will have to make a decision: Biden or Kamala? This is the moment when Phil Murphy becomes a National Presidential Kingmaker.
I have not discussed this at all with any of Phil Murphy’s front office staff or kitchen cabinet members. But I am an intrepid soul, and I will predict that he endorses for president Kamala Harris. If she is elected president, he will become a key Harris administration player, with a real chance at being nominated Treasury Secretary or President of the World Bank.
Biden has already received a most significant endorsement from former Governor Jim Florio. History will be very kind to Jim Florio in assessing his performance as governor. When it comes to the issue of environment and the planet, Jim Florio has established himself as having the finest record of any American political figure over the past century.
Climate change will be a major issue in the 2020 presidential campaign in New Jersey. If both Phil Murphy and Jim Florio were to endorse Biden, I think that would make Joe the favorite over Kamala in the Garden State.
Murphy, however will have another agenda, specifically mobilizing support not only for the Democratic presidential ticket but for his own 2021 gubernatorial reelection campaign from African-American, Hispanic, and Asian voters. His campaigning and identifying with Kamala will go a long way towards generating enthusiasm from these constituencies for his reelection.
Thanks to the stupidity of Donald Trump, Jr. and his despicable attempt to disparage her minority ancestry status, Kamala has emerged as a leading national symbol of racial and ethnic tolerance, combatting the malignant cancer of bigotry fostered by the most loathsome symbol of family race hatred in American politics, Birther Leader Donald Trump and his hate monger son, Donald, Jr.
In New Jersey, the Republican Party was once symbolized by Tom Kean and his compelling message of The Politics of Inclusion. Today, the Republican Party in New Jersey is symbolized by the Putrid Politics of the Trumps, father and sin.
Ideologically, Phil and Kamala are also very compatible. They both occupy the same political space: the border zone between Democratic Center-Left and Progressive Democrats.
When Phil and Kamala campaign together in New Jersey cities, the enthusiasm of minority communities will be overwhelming. For Phil and Tammy Murphy, the moment will be exhilarating.
Joe Biden is a good and decent man who could make a fine president. But his awkwardness on the campaign trail has damaged himself badly.
In short, Biden has morphed into Dan Quayle. Kamala has morphed into Bobby Kennedy. More than anybody else over the past fifty years since RFK’s assassination, Kamala’s passionate appeal to hope and tolerance is reminiscent of the RFK message of seeking a better world in a time of desperation.
Bobby Kennedy was a native Bostonian of Irish heritage, as is Phil Murphy. My belief is that Phil Murphy will endorse for president the candidate who has the most authentic claim to the political heritage of RFK. That candidate is Kamala Harris.
Alan J. 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 under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.