New Jersey Governor Election Analytics

A ‘one-term curse’ seems to exist for New Jersey governors. Since 1977, no Democrat has won a second term in the New Jersey Statehouse. If the incumbent Phil Murphy (D) wins, he would be the first Democrat to win reelection for governor in New Jersey in over 40 years.

This Tuesday, November 2nd, Murphy is running against former state legislator, Jack Ciattarelli (R), in the race for New Jersey governor. So far, the state’s gubernatorial race has seen $29.6M in political advertising spending.

While New Jersey has been considered a solid blue state since 1992, this year’s gubernatorial race is becoming increasingly tight. This race along with other governor’s races in the country are being highlighted as they will serve as preludes to the 2022 midterm elections, which include 34 Senate seats, control of the House, and 36 governor seats.

In 2020, Biden won the presidency in New Jersey by 16 points, and while earlier polls had Murphy leading by double digits, the latest Emerson College poll had Murphy in the lead by just 4%, 52% to 48%. The closeness of the race reflects the trend in which the president’s party tends to lose members in midterms and gubernatorial races. There is also a tendency for Democrat-leaning states to elect Republican governors. This could be a result of the governor’s races being more focused on fiscal issues and constraints than federal elections, which focus more on social policies.

Spending Analysis

Spending has been recorded for both campaigns and issue groups across cable, broadcast, radio, satellite, and digital media. Of the $29.6M spent on advertisements for the New Jersey governor’s race, $16.6M has been spent on ads supporting the democratic candidate, while $12.9M has been spent on ads supporting the republican candidate.

During the primary, spending for the Democratic and Republican candidates were neck and neck, with Democratic advertisers spending $3.53M and Republican advertisers spending $3.50M. In the general election cycle, Democratic advertisers have been outspending Republican advertisers $13.12M to $9.44M. Spending saw a small increase around the time of the primary election, then dropped, only to see a large increase, specifically in support of the Democratic candidate, around September. In the final three weeks before the election, Ciattarelli has spent $3.2M and Murphy has spent $4.3M.

Overall, there has been a large emphasis on Cable and Broadcast media spending. Cable has seen $15.3M in spending over the course of the race, and Broadcast has seen $12.1M since the beginning of the window. Digital has recorded spending of about $1.5M since the beginning of the cycle, with Radio and Satellite getting around $600,000 combined. Republican advertisers focused more on cable spending, whereas democratic advertisers favored broadcast spending.

Both parties have seen greater spending from candidate advertisers, and less spending from issue group advertisers. Issue groups supporting Phil Murphy have spent $6.14M on advertising, whereas issue groups supporting Jack Ciattarelli have spent $2.71M. Notably, Our NJ has spent $5.95M on advertisements supporting Murphy and the Republican Governors Association has spent $2.68M on advertisements supporting Ciattarelli.

Messaging Analysis

Ciattarelli has focused his platform on fiscal policies and trying to veer from association with Trump. He is looking to take advantage of Biden’s dropping approval ratings. In a recent poll, 57% of Americans disapproved of Joe Biden. Ciattarelli’s ads focus on job recovery, education reform, and tax cuts. Phil Murphy is running with COVID-19 policies at the forefront. His ads link Ciattarelli with Trump and warn voters of Ciattarelli’s Trump-like policies.

Tuesday’s results will be a hint at the midterm elections next year. In a recent survey, the New Jersey electorate was split: 39% Democratic, 23% Republican, and 36% unaffiliated. Voter turnout from the independent voters in the state will have a large effect on the outcome of the election to determine if Phil Murphy can break the curse of incumbent governors not being reelected.