Gov. Phil Murphy won’t join his predecessor in hugging a president belonging to the opposing political party on the eve of an election that will decide who sits in the country’s highest office.
“I’m not giving anybody a hug right now or in the foreseeable future,” he said when asked if he would embrace President Donald Trump should he visit the state in October. “But if the president were to come to New Jersey — clearly he’s the president of the United States — I would do right by that.”
Though he often sharply criticized Trump before the onset of a global pandemic that has left thousands of New Jersey residents dead and the state tossed into a fiscal tumble, Murphy has eschewed such criticisms more recently.
Former Gov. Chris Christie drew fire from Republicans after embracing then-President Barack Obama on the eve of the 2012 general election.
The state was reeling then from the destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy, and Republicans in part blamed Christie for U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) failure to oust Obama.
The situation now is a little different.
For one, hugs and other types of close contact pose little danger in the aftermath of a weather-related disaster.
Murphy, now about a month and half past a surgery that removed a cancerous tumor form one of his kidneys, has to worry about contracting a virus that has killed nearly 5,000 of the state’s residents.
It’s not clear how long the restrictions Murphy has imposed to blunt the spread of COVID-19 will remain in place, but Murphy, for now, is planning to keep his social distance in the coming months.
“My answer stands,” Murphy said when asked if his reluctance to hug anybody would hold into the fall.