Where’s Murphy? A Look at the Governor’s Schedule in 2022

Before we get much further into 2023, here is the 2022 edition of “Where’s Murphy?” As part of a class project, my students[i] and I analyzed Governor Murphy’s public schedule in 2022.  We randomly selected over 100 days in 2022 and coded his public schedule for each one.  We were interested in where he went and what he talked about.  To be fair, we really analyzed where he went and what he said he was going to talk about. We didn’t go to all of his events, we just read the notices from the Governor’s office explaining his schedule.  I did a similar analysis back in 2018  when I looked at what Murphy did in his first 100 days in office.  I wanted to do this every year but of course “Covid-19 Briefing” is a phrase not a column.  Even so comparing what Murphy did in his first 100 days with what he did in 2022 is an interesting (to an academic at least) exercise.

Overall, the findings suggest that Murphy and his staff have become more focused and disciplined over these 4 years.  At the beginning of the Governor’s term, he tried to be everywhere at once and be everything to everybody.  As he has matured and grown in his second term, he seems less excited and perhaps anxious about needing to connect with a broad range of constituents over a broad range of issues.  Comparing the two time periods shows this in a few ways.

Less might be more

In both time periods, Murphy had “no public schedule” listed a fair amount of the time.  In 2018 it was about 25% of the days covered.  That number had rose to 32% in 2022.  This doesn’t mean he wasn’t working just that he had no public events.  In both time periods, Murphy was also out of state a fair amount.  In 2018 about 8% of the events were out of state, in 2022 it was about 13%.  Again, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t working it just means he wasn’t working in New Jersey.  In 2018, about 12% of Governor Murphy’s events were an interview with one media outlet.  In 2022, that had risen significantly to 21%.  Lastly, in 2018 on a little over half of the days (52%) that a public event, Murphy only did one event.  In 2022, that number rose of 71%.

Taken together, these numbers suggest that the Murphy operation is running a tighter ship in 2022 than they did in 2018.  In 2022, they spent more time on a singular news event of the day and less running around to different places than they did in 2018.  In 2022, he also did fewer events overall.  That also suggests that Murphy and his staff may have developed more message discipline over these four years.

Growing with the Press

When Governor Murphy started, he (and his staff) were a little unsure of how he would do when talking off the cuff with the press.  That is a skill that you don’t learn in the corporate board room.  The fact that he did significantly less one-on-one media interviews in 2018 than he did in 2022 is one indication that he has grown more comfortable being interviewed.  Another way Murphy has grown with the press is the fact that in 2018, about 10% of his events were listed as “closed press.” In 2022, that number fell to less than 1%.  Furthermore, in 2018 about 44% of his events were listed as having “no press availability.”  In 2022, that number fell to 23%.  Our data doesn’t show how often he actually spoke to the press, but it does suggest he has become more comfortable giving the press the opportunity to speak with him.

A primary focus comes into focus

This sense of increased discipline is also supported by what Murphy talked about or again to be clear, what his press releases said he was going to talk about.  In 2018, the issues Murphy talked about most were education, the environment, transportation, gun control, economic development and events related to storms and bad weather.  Each of those topics account for between 6 and 7% of all of the Murphy events we coded in 2018.  That is a little time on a lot of topics.

In 2022, economic development topics accounted for 19% of Murphy’s events.  That means Murphy was 3 times more likely to focus on economic development topics in 2022 than he was in 2018. In 2022, education and gun control each still accounted for about 4% of Murphy’s events but the environment, transportation and bad weather all dropped to less than 2 percent.  In 2022, for Murphy it was about the economy (stupid?) and as he says all the time, “How to grow that sucker.”

So, what does this mean?

These results show that Murphy and the Murphy organization have grown and matured over the last 4 years.  They are less reactive and more disciplined in their messaging and how they present that message.  While that might not be surprising, it does show that a Governor can learn on the job.  Murphy still isn’t and most likely will never be an instinctual politician; you can’t teach instinct.  But you can teach other things like discipline, message control and focus.  Those are lessons that Murphy seems to have learned well.  That is something as we ought to consider when thinking about possible contenders for Murphy’s chair the next time around.

[i] Specifically the students working on this project were; Catherine Winterfield, Najee Quashie, Sidney Cooks, Sister Li Huazhi, Christopher Mirabito, Hursith Adimulam and Adjeilyne Akrong.  They are all smart and you should hire them.

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One response to “Where’s Murphy? A Look at the Governor’s Schedule in 2022”

  1. Since my son attended this class, called Stratigic Management. My son is a manager, who needed additional knowledge about his career. Unfortunately he had to learn about Gov. Murphy . My son doesn’t live in New Jersey. What a waste of time and money. Dr Hale, get a job with Gov. Murphy and leave our students alone.

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