POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Political analyst: NJ Voters weary, wary and cynical

New Jersey has an acting governor today and tomorrow — that’s rare. The man in the job wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Here’s Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron to explain.

Aron: Mary Alice, both Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are in Aspen, Colorado, today attending a Republican Governors Association meeting. That makes Senate President Steve Sweeney acting governor. He suggested today we don’t need acting governors anymore in this age of instant communication, a point Christie has often made.

Guadagno is in Aspen in hopes of raising some money for her gubernatorial campaign. According to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, Democrat Phil Murphy has raised $755,000 and qualified for $1.1 million in matching funds. Guadagno has reported no funds raised yet, although it’s possible she’ll file some tomorrow.

The latest poll from NBC 4 New York and Marist college has Murphy ahead by 21 points, or 54 percent to 33. That’s actually an improvement for Guadagno from the recent Monmouth Poll that had her down by 27 points.

Joining us now via Skype is Brigid Harrison, professor of political science at Montclair State University. Brigid, it’s being suggested that Kim Guadagno is having money problems. What do you think?

Harrison: Well, I think that she is having money problems. I think the money problems are so severe that her opponent has taken the really radical step of saying I’m going to participate in this public matching fund program, in a sense limiting the amount of money that he can spend, because it’s clear he believes that she will have a lot of difficulty having funds to succeed Chris Christie.

Aron: They both will ultimately get $13 million if she qualifies for the full match. It’s being said in some circles, like Barbara Buono in 2013, she won’t be able to raise the $4.5 million that you need to qualify for $9 million in matching funds. Do you see any parallels between what she’s going through and what Buono went through as the Democratic candidate in 2013?

Harrison: Oh, absolutely. I think that there are members like Barbara Buono when she ran for governor, there are members of Kim Guadagno’s own political party who, while they publicly will say they’re supporting here, really are not rooting for her to succeed. They’re not backing her in the same way that many Democrats didn’t back Buono. I think that that will translate into the amount of money that she’s able to raise. I think that $4.1 million cap, I think that’s really a stretch for her. I think that she’s going to have tremendous difficulty raising that amount of money.

Aron: You’re saying that Republicans are writing her off already, is that right?

Harrison: Well, they’re writing her off, but I think that for many Republicans in the state who have suffered under Gov. Christie’s lap of popularity in recent months, building into years, I do think there is a strong desire behind closed doors for the Republican Party to move on past the Chris Christie era. It is damaging down-ballot candidates, it’s damaging the morale behind the party and I think that some people who would just like to turn the page on this era and some Republicans would like to turn the page.

Aron: Remember 1993 when Christine Whitman was about 2o points behind Jim Florio, and then in September released a 30 percent cut in income tax plan and over the course of six weeks that 20 percent tightened and she ultimately won. Could Kim Guadagno’s property tax circuit breaker plan possibly work like a Hail Mary pass the way it did for Whitman?

Harrison: Look Michael, I mean anything is possible in New Jersey politics in particular. I think through that we have a much more cynical electorate today than we had in 1993. Also remember that Jim Florio was enormously unpopular. And so that Hail Mary pass, there was a bit of hope that perhaps this Republican governor Christine Whitman might be able to reign in spending. I think New Jerseyans now are a bit more weary, a bit more wary and a lot more cynical. Also, you have to remember that the person walking around with the negative baggage here is not Phil Murphy, it is Chris Christie and Kim Guadagno has been part of that administration for eight years. Many people say if you have this terrific plan in mind, why didn’t the governor implement it?

Aron: How do you evaluate each of them as candidates, Phil Murphy and Kim Guadagno? Are they good?

Harrison: I mean, honestly I have known Kim Guadagno for a longer period of time. I have been rather startled in some of her debate performances in particular and also in reading reports of the various editorial boards that she’s appeared before throughout the state. Which resonates the opinion that I’ve formed, and that is that she’s demonstrated a rather startling lack of knowledge about some of the issues facing the state and potential solutions for them. With someone who has had kind of a seat at the table, even if that hasn’t been a fully pushed in seat, if you will, you would expect at least a great deal of knowledge about the issues. I think this is something we saw at the debates and has been reiterated by various op-ed pieces.

Aron: We have 10 seconds, tell me what you think of Murphy.

Harrison: I’ve been surprised about how hard he’s working and surprised at how much his message has resonated with New Jerseyans.

Aron: Well, that goes for him then tonight, this segment. Thanks very much Brigid Harrison. Good to see you.

Harrison: My pleasure.