From the Star Ledger:
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the Republican leader, says he is grateful that Gov. Phil Murphy engaged so heavily in this week’s election because it helped Republicans like him win close races.
“Did Murphy help me?” Bramnick asked. “Absolutely and without a doubt. The last thing Democrats wanted was his face on TV.”
Murphy has a lock on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but he is not a popular governor overall. The latest Monmouth University poll put his approval rating at 41 percent, and after two years in office, 20 percent have no opinion.
The gift he gave to Republicans in this election was to remind voters that Democrats are likely to raise taxes. That came during a talk at Rowan University when he answered a question with this gem: “If you’re a one-issue voter, and tax rate is your issue…we’re probably not your state.”
In his defense, he spoke the truth about taxes New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country, and we rank #9 in combined state and local taxes, as a share of income.
But it was another rookie mistake by our sophomore governor, because it sounded like he was telling people to quit whining and accept punishing taxes as a fact of life. Republicans saw an opportunity and pounded it over and over, especially in the swing districts they were worried about losing, like Bramnick’s in Union County.
Murphy then helped more by purchasing $2 million in TV ads featuring his face, barnstorming in suburban districts where he’s deeply unpopular, and even claiming credit for his imaginary fix of NJ Transit’s woes.
The bottom line in this election is that Democrats missed an opportunity and lost some ground. Republicans picked up a Senate seat and at least two Assembly seats. That doesn’t challenge Democratic control, but it will make it tougher to win close fights, like the effort to legalize marijuana or extend voting rights to those on parole and probation.