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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Murphy’s popularity could be boon to NJ Dems

Governor’s high approvals likely to force GOP candidates to change strategies

By David Wildstein, August 24 2018 12:56 am

With a 54% approval rating, Gov. Phil Murphy is now expected to hit the campaign trail for local Democratic candidates in New Jersey in September and October, some party officials say.

The idea that Murphy could be a liability to Democrats was quashed by this week’s Quinnipiac University poll that puts him as the most popular first-year governor ever – or at least since public polls began tracking gubernatorial approval ratings in the early 1970’s.  During the state budget standoff in June, some Republicans began attacking their Democratic opponents for their ties to Murphy; that likely to stop soon.

Murphy has already been helpful to Bob Menendez, who is in a close race to keep his seat in the United States Senate.  And he’s raised money for Menendez and for the Democratic State Committee.  Now, Democrats say, he’ll become engaged in campaigns to pick up congressional seats in New Jersey, in the race to win control of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders, in efforts to break the all-Republican holds on the freeholder boards in Somerset and Morris counties, and in bids to win county clerk races in Morris and Passaic counties.

The focus of the fledgling Democratic governor on local races in New Jersey stands in sharp contrast to his Republican predecessor.  In 2010, Chris Christie used his high approval ratings as an opportunity to burnish his national image; he campaigned for GOP candidates across the country, but hardly at all for Republicans running in New Jersey.

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