If pharma millionaire Bob Hugin suddenly has an itch to run for public office, some Republicans think he should wait until 2021 and run for Governor against Phil Murphy.
New Jersey offers a decidedly different political environment for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates. Republicans have not won a Senate race since 1972; Democrats have not re-elected a Governor since 1977. Republicans have had three two-term Governors during the same period that their Senate candidates have gone 0-for15.
Voters in New Jersey consider dissimilar issues when deciding on a Governor or a Senator.
The incumbent, Sen. Bob Menendez, is seeking re-election in the aftermath of a hung jury in a federal corruption trial. Menendez won 85% of the vote in the jury, and then quickly locked up the endorsements of New Jersey’s powerful Democratic establishment.
Republicans acknowledge the self-funding Hugin faces an uphill battle. 2018 is increasingly viewed as a strong year for Democrats, and Hugin will be attacked for his close relationships with two Republicans who are enormously unpopular in New Jersey: Donald Trump and Chris Christie.
Hugin is meticulously tied to Christie, whose approval rating was at 19% in a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released last week. Trump’s New Jersey approvals are at 32%.
Some GOP insiders think Hugin should wait until the unpopularity of Christie dissipates – especially if Murphy has any missteps of his own. Republicans openly point to the possibility that a Democrat will be in the White House the next time New Jersey elects a Governor.
New Jersey Republicans have an extraordinarily weak bench, and may key County Chairmen would like their own self-funding outsider to win back the Governor’s office in four years.
Hugin was a huge contributor to Christie’s presidential campaign, and his exploratory efforts are being led by Bill Palatucci, the Republican National Committeeman from New Jersey and Christie’s closest friend.
After Christie’s 2016 bid ended, Hugin signed on to the Trump campaign. He won a Trump delegate slot, and his Trump contributions included a $100,000 check to the President’s Super PAC.