Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno are the early front runners in the New Jersey primary races for governor, but neither candidate has the June primary race locked up.
About 57 percent of registered Democrats and 42 percent of registered Republicans are still undecided in the primary races, according to the latest poll by Quinnipiac University. The figures do not include independent voters.
Murphy and Guadagno are still largely unknown by voters in their political parties. Seventy percent of respondents said they “don’t know enough” about Murphy, while 63 percent said they don’t know enough about Guadagno, who topped comedian Joe Piscopo by 10 percentage points in the latest poll.
“The leading candidates – Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy – are little known, despite her years as lieutenant governor and the huge amount of money he already has spent,” said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Will that change if they win the nominations? Sure, but it’s hardly an auspicious start.”
In a general election matchup between Murphy and Guadagno, Murphy leads 47 to 25 percent, with 25 percent undecided, the Quinnipiac University poll finds.
Just under 1,100 New Jersey voters were surveyed for the poll. Murphy would receive 23 percent of the vote in a Democratic primary, with 6 percent for Assembly member John Wisniewski, 4 percent each for former U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Jim Johnson and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak and 2 percent for activist Bill Brennan.
Robert Becker, campaign manager for Democratic candidate John Wisniewski, was quick to respond to the poll results, saying they show that governor’s race is still wide open in spite of the large sum of money Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, has already spent on his campaign.
“Murphy has spent an astronomical amount of his Goldman Sachs fortune — an estimated $15-20 million so far — on television ads and waves of negative mail attacking his strongest opponent John Wisniewski, yet he only garners 23 percent,” Becker said in a statement. ““No amount of Phil Murphy’s Wall Street fortune can shake the toxic albatross around his neck — his two decades at Goldman Sachs. Democrats need to recognize how fundamentally flawed Murphy is as a candidate, before it is too late. Otherwise, Murphy’s collapse in the general election will allow for a weak Republican candidate to win in November, and that would be devastating for the Democratic Party in New Jersey and America.”
In a Republican primary, Guadagno leads with 28 percent, followed by 18 percent for comedian Joe Piscopo, 3 percent for Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli, 2 percent for Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers and 1 percent for entrepreneur Joseph Rullo.
According to the poll, about 76 percent of New Jersey voters disapprove of the job Gov. Christopher Christie is doing, compared to a 78 percent disapproval rating in a Jan. 31 Quinnipiac University poll. Most voters give Gov. Christie a D or an F for job performance. Christie will not get much done in his last year as governor, 77 percent of voters say, while 19 percent say he can be effective. Christie should take the sports radio job for which he is being considered, according to 45 percent of the people polled.
“The big question about Gov. Christopher Christie seems to be: How low can his job- approval go? Can he bounce back even a little bit before his term expires?” Carroll said.
President Donald Trump’s approval ratings decreased in the most recent poll, with 59 percent of the people polled saying they disapprove of the job he is doing compared with 55 percent on Jan. 31.
Sen. Cory Booker received a positive approval rating of 57 percent, while only 45 percent of voters think U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is doing a good job, down from a 51 percent in January.
“Sen. Cory Booker remains the most popular politician in New Jersey,” Carroll said. “Is it too early to start thinking about a 2020 presidential bid?”