Patrick Murray, the head of the gold-standard Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that this morning’s Monmouth gubernatorial poll numbers bode ill for Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli despite some movement towards the former assemblyman.
“Ciattarelli needed bigger movement,” said Murray, a New Jerseyan considered one of the nation’s top pollsters. “He needed to dent [Gov. Phil] Murphy’s trust advantage on the number one issue that’s facing the state right now, which is the pandemic – and that has not happened at all.”
The results of today’s poll show Murphy leading Ciattarelli by 13 points, down somewhat from 16 points in August but still far from a highly competitive race. 50% of respondents said they trust Murphy more to handle the pandemic, compared to only 23% for Ciattarelli.
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“The ability to create the opportunity for Ciattarelli is out of his hands,” Murray added. “The opportunity has to come from someplace else, either a Murphy misstep or an act of God, that changes the dynamics of the race.”
Much like the poll numbers themselves, Murray’s perspective on the race has changed little since August, but the fact that Republicans now have one less month to redirect the course of the race is bad news for Ciattarelli. Thus far, their attacks hitting Murphy on his handling of the pandemic, the state’s high taxes, and sexual assault have not seemed to land.
“Ciattarelli has spent a month trying to ding Murphy, trying to create an opening, and it just hasn’t really happened,” Murray said.
No Democratic governor has been re-elected since Brendan Byrne in 1977, creating a daunting precedent for Murphy to overcome. But as Murray pointed out, no candidate has returned from such a large polling disadvantage since Byrne that same year.
One of those streaks is certain to break this year – and Murray is betting on Murphy.