At least one debate expected in N.J. governor’s race

    Political analysts expect at least one debate in the governor’s race in New Jersey.Unless he decides to accept matching public campaign funds, Gov. Chris Christie is not obligated to participate in a debate.

    However, Monmouth University political analyst Patrick Murray believes Christie will end up debating Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, a state senator.

    “It will undermine his credibility as someone who’s not afraid to take on all comers if he doesn’t do a debate,” Murray said.

    Seton Hall public policy professor Matthew Hale says it’s critical for Buono to have a debate.

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    “She’s so far behind right now that the debate is really perhaps her best shot at trying to close that gap,” Hale said. “And that gap only really I think gets closed if Christie makes a serious bumble in the debate.”

    Although gubernatorial debates typically do not draw many viewers, the analysts say it’s important for the candidates to meet-face-to-face and express their views in a public forum.

    “The sad thing about these debates … is that very few people watch gubernatorial debates even when it’s a close election,” Murray said. “So if it’s a blowout it’s probably not going to get her that much recognition except for the coverage of the debates. If something happens, if there’s a gaffe on the governor’s part, that’s certainly going to help Buono.”

    Montclair State political science professor Brigid Harrison says having a debate with Christie would be the pinnacle of Buono’s campaign.

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