In first TV ad of fall campaign, Murphy comes out swinging at Christie legacy

Two candidates, both seated at table, with microphone; Guadagno in blue suit (left) Murphy in black (right)

Republican Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno (left) and Democrat Phil Murphy (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Six weeks before New Jersey voters select a new governor, Democratic nominee Phil Murphy has released his first television ad for the general election.

Even though polls show Murphy with a big lead over his Republican opponent, he begins the ad by calling attention to her.

“The Christie playbook failed New Jersey,” says the narrator. “Now, Kim Guadagno wants another try.”

Seton Hall public affairs professor Matthew Hale said Murphy has identified Guadagno’s weak spot as Chris Christie’s unpopularity.

“There’s still four out of 10 people who don’t know much about either candidate. So what he’s doing right now is he’s defining who she is,” Hale said Tuesday. “That definition is that she is a Chris Christie toady. And if he makes that definition stick with those remaining voters, I think it’s a really smart idea.”

Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley agreed that it’s a good strategy.

“Four out of five voters in New Jersey disapprove of the job Chris Christie is doing. That is the big vulnerability of the Republican nominee, that she’s tied to Chris Christie,” Woolley said. “She’s been his lieutenant governor for eight years now. There’s no better line of attack for Phil Murphy than to ask voters if they want four more years of Chris Christie.”

There may be other reasons for Murphy’s decision to launch a negative ad, said John Weingart with the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.

“I think there’s some combination of a feeling by campaign consultants that negative ads work, some feeling that last year’s [presidential] election proved that polls can be unreliable.”

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