With Election Day finally here and hundreds of thousands of voters heading to the polls today, Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli are making their closing pitches to voters up and down the state.
For Ciattarelli, that means returning to the place where his political career began. After making a series of stops in North and Central Jersey yesterday, Ciattarelli rallied in his hometown of Raritan last night, and is hitting diners throughout Somerset County this morning.
“Guys, let’s get this done,” he told a crowd gathered beneath the statue of John Basilone yesterday evening. “I’ve never been more motivated in my professional life to achieve anything than I am willing to do on your behalf. This is the state we love.”
Murphy, meanwhile, went to Union City yesterday evening, Cherry Hill this morning, and will close out tonight in Asbury Park near his hometown of Middletown, while also stopping for a number of TV and radio interviews along the way.
“If we win, it says that what we’ve been doing for the past four years is working, and that folks want to see more of it,” Murphy said on CNN’s New Day yesterday morning. “I think people will say, ‘You know what, we like what we’ve seen, and we want to see more of it.’”
Both candidates have been indefatigable candidates over the last month, criss-crossing the state and meeting voters from Atlantic City to Ridgewood. But – as Ciattarelli in particular likes to point out – their styles have been very different.
A Ciattarelli campaign stop is a chance to sell voters on Ciattarelli himself; he’s got his New Jersey story as one of four children born to hardworking parents in Raritan who built a successful career for himself, and he likes to tell it every chance he gets.
Murphy, on the other hand, has tended to approach campaign stops as a chance to sell voters on the Democratic Party more broadly. Nearly every Murphy event has featured speeches from local power players, be they religious figures, union leaders, or state legislators, and he’s brought in a number of big-name Democrats to boost the message.
Ciattarelli has worked to make the contrast work in his favor, arguing that Murphy isn’t confident enough to run a campaign on his own achievements and messages.
“Who did he bring in to New Jersey? He brought in Jill Biden, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders,” Ciattarelli said last night to louder boos with each passing name. “The press keeps asking me, ‘Jack, he’s bringing in all these people, who are you bringing in?’ I said, I’m bringing in Jack Ciattarelli!”
But Ciattarelli, as the nominee for a party that has faced devastating losses in the state in recent years, is freer to run as his own man, while Murphy has the weight of a highly successful and widespread party apparatus riding on his back.
In other words, if Murphy wins but New Jersey Democrats lose ground elsewhere, it will likely be treated as something of a split result or Pyrrhic victory, while Republicans would be overjoyed at a Ciattarelli victory no matter what else happens in the state.