Progressive champion Sen. Bernie Sanders heads to New Jersey Thursday evening to parachute into a closely watched gubernatorial showdown that polls suggest is slightly tightening with just a handful of days to go until the election.
Sanders, the runner up for the Democratic presidential nomination in the past two White House races, will team up with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who’s facing a Republican challenge from Jack Ciattarelli as he runs for a second four-year term steering the Garden State.
“Raising the minimum wage. Paid leave. Equal pay. This is the progress made under the leadership of @PhilMurphyNJ, and this Thursday, we’ll rally to get out the vote at Rutgers University. I hope you can join us,” the longtime independent lawmaker from Vermont tweeted on Tuesday.
The rally is taking place at the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University, New Jersey’s state university and the largest school of higher education in the Garden State.
The Sanders rally comes three days after the governor joined President Biden at two policy events in New Jersey, to spotlight the bipartisan infrastructure package and the massive social spending and climate change package being pushed by Biden and congressional Democrats. And Murphy teamed up with former President Barack Obama at a rally on Saturday.
The latest public opinion polls indicate Murphy still holding onto a slightly shrinking double-digit lead over Ciattarelli.
Murphy, America’s ambassador to Germany during Obama’s administration and former longtime top executive at the financial firm Goldman Sachs, stands at 50% support among likely voters in New Jersey questioned in a Stockton University survey released on Thursday.
Ciattarelli, a certified public accountant who started a medical publishing company and a former state lawmaker who is making his second bid for governor, stands at 41% in the poll, which was conducted Oct. 17-26.
Murphy held a 50%-39% lead over Ciattarelli among registered voters in New Jersey in a Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday. The governor’s 11-point margin over Ciattarell in the survey, which was conducted Oct. 21-25, was down from a 13-point lead in a Monmouth poll from last month and a drop from a 16-point lead in an August survey.
“We’ve had a couple of debates and a slew of advertising since the last Monmouth poll. Ciattarelli has chipped away at Murphy’s lead but hasn’t delivered the knockout he needs,” Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said.
While New Jersey‘s a blue state where Democrats enjoy a registration advantage of roughly 1 million more voters than Republicans, Murphy’s trying to become the first Democratic governor in more than four decades to win reelection. And he’s aiming to break a trend dating back to 1989 that’s seen the party that wins the White House go on to lose the Garden State’s election for governor in the ensuing year.
New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states to hold a gubernatorial contest in the year after a presidential election, guaranteeing that they receive outsized national attention.
Ahead of Sanders stop in New Jersey, Republican Governors Association spokesperson Will Reinert charged that “Phil Murphy gave the stiff arm to independents and invited the avowed socialist Bernie Sanders to campaign with him as Democratic voters’ enthusiasm to show up at the poles takes a nosedive.”