ELECTIONS

Monmouth Polling Director Calls Presidential Race Unusually Volatile, Says Booker Would Be Formidable Opponent for Christie

Early polls after the second presidential debate are giving the edge to President Barack Obama. Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the second debate between Obama and Mitt Romney was certainly different than the first and that the reaction from undecided voters to the first debate was unusual. Murray isn’t sure the president can win back members of the electorate he lost after the first debate. He also discussed the possibility of Newark Mayor Cory Booker running against Gov. Chris Christie next year.

Murray said Obama and Romney are facing an extremely volatile electorate. “We saw a swing of four to five points from that first debate in terms of the polls and the horse race numbers, which is highly unusual, which means that President Obama needed to come out swinging in the second debate and he certainly did that, challenging Mitt Romney on certain things, saying that he was changing his mind or didn’t appear to be doing what he had said he was going to do to begin with,” Murray said.

Typically after a debate, Murray said pollsters find a maximum swing of two to three points, not the four or five seen after the first presidential debate. “That means about 10 percent of the electorate is up for grabs,” he said. “We don’t see that in a presidential election at this point in time, which means this is a very volatile race.”

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Murray believes voters changed their mind about Obama after the first debate for a variety of reasons. “They swung because they weren’t particularly happy with the job that President Obama has done. But he was handed a mess so they’re giving him a little bit of leeway there and they weren’t comfortable with the alternative. And then they got a mix of things where they got more comfortable with the alternative,” Murray said. “They felt that Obama had lost the fight and so even if they didn’t approve of what he was doing they were even worse off because he wasn’t going to be fighting at all in the next four years.”

Murray doesn’t believe those that dropped support for Obama after the first debate will come back to him easily. “I think Obama’s going to have to fight for them,” he said. “I don’t think that he’s won back that lead that he had right before the first debate.”

While many are focused on the presidential race, New Jersey’s gubernatorial race next year is on the minds of some. Quinnipiac University released a poll that found Newark Mayor Cory Booker would make a formidable opponent against Gov. Christie, should both of them decide to run. Murray said the results didn’t surprise him because Booker has had high favorability ratings.

“He has extremely high name recognition for somebody in New Jersey because it’s very hard for somebody in New Jersey, particularly a mayor — even of Newark — to have high name recognition. He has two-thirds name recognition and 4-to-1 positive to negative ratings,” Murray said of Booker. “So he’s going to be a formidable opponent if he does run against Chris Christie.”