Stockton University will host the first of the New Jersey gubernatorial primary debates this evening. The Republicans meet at 6:30 p.m. and the Democrats begin at 8 p.m.
Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray expects very few people will be tuning into the debates and believes they won’t have much impact for the candidates.
“What helps them is whether they’ve got organizational support to get their voters out to the polls on primary day and in many ways that has absolutely nothing to do with their policy positions or what they do in a debate.”
Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison disagreed and said the forums could have an impact.
“I think that there is potential, particularly for some of the lesser known candidates, to make a name for themselves and to effectively introduce themselves to New Jersey voters.”
John Weingart, the associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, said he believes the debates might influence the outcome of the June 9 primary.
“To the extent the primaries seem likely to be low turnout events, if somebody picks up a couple of hundred or a thousand votes as a result of a debate, that could make a big difference.”
Analysts say a big mistake in the debate could doom a candidate’s campaign.