New Jersey’s race for governor had yet to have a clear winner on election night Tuesday with the leading candidates separated by a razor-thin margin as vote tallies continued to pour in.
The tight race is already a victory for Republicans after GOP candidate Jack Ciattarelli clearly outperformed expectations amid booming Republican turnout in the Garden State. Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy was widely expected to score an easy victory on Tuesday. With about 88% of the vote in Wednesday morning, Ciattarelli led Murphy by just over 1,000 votes. As Politico reported:
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli remained locked in a neck-and-neck battle early Wednesday, with the outcome too close to call in a race Democrats had long been confident about winning.
Republican strongholds Ciattarelli was counting on — especially Ocean County, the biggest GOP vote-producing county in the state — saw massive turnout while traffic to the polls appeared milquetoast in the state’s urban, heavily Democratic areas.
Democrats boast more than one million registered voters over Republicans in the state. Massive turnout in GOP strongholds bolstered Ciattarelli’s numbers, however, keeping him competitive and potentially delivering him a win. The GOP candidate appeared much more confident in his chances than Murphy as each delivered remarks amid the toss-up on Tuesday night.
“We have sent a message to the entire country,” Ciattarelli told supporters at his election night headquarters in Bridgewater, already declaring a partial victory after outperforming every opinion poll conducted in the race, according to The New York Times. “But this is what I love about this state, if you study its history: Every single time it’s gone too far off track, the people of this state have pushed, pulled and prodded it right back to where it needs to be.”
Murphy’s remarks appeared much more muted compared to his GOP challenger.
“We’re all sorry that tonight could not yet be the celebration that we wanted it to be,” said Murphy, speaking from his headquarters in Asbury Park. “But as I said: When every vote is counted — and every vote will be counted — we hope to have a celebration again.”
While Democrats have a commanding lead in registered voters in New Jersey, the state has remained competitive in recent decades as voters have shown a preference for governors from the party opposing the White House.
Ciattarelli’s surprising showing follows a GOP rout of Democrats in Virginia as Republicans won all three state-wide races for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general and appeared to take control of the Virginia House after Tuesday’s election. The GOP sweep is a warning shot to Democrats a year before the 2022 midterms as Republicans aim to take back control of Congress.
President Joe Biden’s approval rating has plummeted less than a year into his presidency as his administration struggles to get a handle on multiple crises.
Biden’s approval is 15 points underwater, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. The poll, with a margin of error of 2.7 points, is based on a survey of 1,326 U.S. adults taken from October 1-4.