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Biden's unpopularity may undercut New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's reelection plans

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President Joe Biden stood before a backdrop of trains in Kearny, New Jersey, earlier this week to make the case for his embattled infrastructure and reconciliation bills. He also hoped to help push Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy over the finish line.

Murphy is locked in a surprisingly tight reelection battle against GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli, and the Democrats are bringing in the big guns to help Murphy seal the deal.

BIDEN BOOSTS HIS SPENDING BILLS AND GOV. PHIL MURPHY IN NEW JERSEY

Biden won New Jersey by 16 points just one year ago, and Murphy held a 26-point lead over Ciattarelli as recently as May. That lead slipped to just six points as of Oct. 18 before a recent uptick, indicating the result could be closer than first expected.

Biden's former boss Barack Obama made an appearance in Newark a few days prior to stump for the governor, indicating the Democrats are at least a little worried about the election's outcome.

"The race in New Jersey has tightened for two reasons, mostly because of the national mood turning more sour on President Biden and the Democrats, and secondly because of the campaigns themselves," said Mike DuHaime, a Republican political strategist and campaign veteran.

DuHaime blames a "lurch left" on spending and taxes in Washington that's hurting Democrats in all but the bluest of districts.

A group of New Jersey house Democrats is working to raise the state and local tax deduction, or SALT, which was capped at $10,000 per taxpayer during the 2017 tax cuts. The limit hurt high earners in states such as New Jersey. However, raising it would cut revenue at a time when the party is trying to find a way to pay for new and expanded programs.

The infrastructure bill also includes significant dollars for construction projects in New Jersey due to its many commuter routes to New York City. But that bipartisan bill is being held up as the party wrangles over what to cut and what to keep in the related reconciliation bill.

"The Murphy campaign has allowed the race to close by running a campaign that appeals to voters already voting for him," DuHaime said. "I suppose it is an expected strategy for re-election of a Democrat in a Democratic state, but it has allowed Jack [Ciattarelli] to creep closer and closer as time has gone by, when they probably could have knocked him out early."

Few who are watching the race closely expect the Republican to pull out a win, yet even a close margin could be a sign of trouble for Biden.

A Monmouth University poll released Oct. 27 showed Murphy with an 11-point lead overall, but there was a partisan enthusiasm gap, with 38% of Republicans and just 24% of Democrats saying they're "more enthusiastic than usual" about the election.

The same poll found that Biden's job performance rating in Jersey had become negative (43% approve, 49% disapprove), while Murphy retained a positive 52% approval rating. This may indicate a relative dissatisfaction with Democrats at the national level.

“The president’s visit on Monday may have done more to boost Biden rather than Murphy when you look at their approval ratings,” Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said in a statement accompanying the results.

Despite being known as a Democratic stronghold, New Jersey is a state that can go either way when it comes to governors. No Democrat has been reelected to the position since 1977, and Republican Chris Christie held the office as recently as January 2018.

Murphy has already implemented some of the policies Biden hopes to introduce nationally. The state will offer free community college to families earning less than $65,000 a year, and Murphy has increased taxes on residents earning more than $1 million a year.

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While much more national attention has been focused on the Virginia governor's race, where state law forbids incumbents from seeking consecutive terms, the New Jersey race could also be looked at as a referendum on Biden's agenda and the wider mood of Democrats one year removed from the 2020 presidential election.

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Tags: New Jersey, Phil Murphy, Democratic Party, Campaigns, Joe Biden

Original Author: Haisten Willis

Original Location: Biden's unpopularity may undercut New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's reelection plans

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