Exactly one week to go before Election Day and the only thing missing from the Murphy campaign is Phil Murphy. With just one public event Monday and none Tuesday, the campaign is letting its TV ad blitz do the heavy lifting.
It’s not an entirely new strategy. Candidates with large leads have been playing it safe since there have been elections. A quick look at the polls suggests the confidence is not unfounded — 20 points, 16 points, take your pick.
But Tuesday’s electorate is far more fickle, even spiteful, and some high-ranking Democrats in the state are privately expressing concern that the big lead is tamping down enthusiasm. On the record, local political leaders are trying to stay positive.
“Hudson, Passaic, etc. These turnouts have to be big to have a resounding victory. Absolutely,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo. “I think the energy’s been picking up. It’s been quiet. It’s been quiet, but I can sense a change in this past week.”
In Jersey City, where the mayor is also up for election, Steve Fulop expressed concern.
“[There] doesn’t seem to be a lot of energy around the gubernatorial race to begin with, which is also scary, and so we’re hopeful,” Fulop added. “We’re going to have a lot of people out there trying to motivate people next Tuesday, but it’s concerning.”
Also concerning to some is the slowed down pace of public appearances by the candidate, who, ironically, is getting good reviews for his recent appearances. He was off the trail Tuesday, his campaign said, in meetings. But the stream of high-profile surrogates continued. Tuesday, it was former Vermont governor and national Democratic Party Chairman, Howard Dean.
“This is my third or fourth time in the state for Phil and I’ve been out around the state, not just Newark, and I know for a fact that the grassroots is really excited about this race,” said Dean. “This is the first election after Trump and I think people want to make a statement here and I think they’re going to turn out. I think you’re going to get a big turn out here.”
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, a Guadagno backer, said he’s not surprised voters are seeing less of Murphy nowadays.
“He’s running for governor, but he doesn’t really get it and we can’t afford what he’s talking about. It’s not that complicated and that’s why he’s not on 101.5. He’s not answering questions. He doesn’t have a public schedule. I’d do the same thing he would do. I’d hide,” said Bramnick.
Murphy has no public events scheduled for Wednesday either, but the campaign insists that doesn’t mean that he’s not busy or that Democrats across the state should take their foot off the gas.