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Runaway Governor’s Race Confounds Pollsters and Pundits

Potential landslides are harder to predict, said Murray, who expects about 44 percent of registered voters to turn out, a few points lower than in most gubernatorial years. “Is the losing candidate’s party going to stay home because they feel there’s no point in voting?” he asked. “Or are the winning candidate’s supporters going to be so complacent about winning that they just don’t bother? The answer could have an impact on the outcome of some legislative races.”

Democratic legislators need to count on huge numbers of voters to split their tickets because Christie is projected to carry most legislative districts in the state. That’s why many Democrats have been running both TV and web ads and sending out mailers touting their willingness to work with the popular Republican governor.

Christie actually has been winning a third of the Democratic vote in most polls, and is wiping out the traditional gender gap, despite Buono’s best efforts to hammer away at Christie on women’s issues like abortion and Planned Parenthood funding.

“The 38th is the most vulnerable Democratic district,” Murray declared. “Senator Bob Gordon only won by six points two years ago, and that was without Christie at the top of the Republican ticket. He also doesn’t have a magic bullet like he did last time when he defeated (Bergen County Republican Freeholder-Director) John Driscoll on the Xanadu issue” – the ugly multiplex development at the Meadowlands Sports Complex that has stood unfinished for years.

The Republican decision to put the 18th District in Democratic Middlesex County on its potential win list may seem like a bit of a surprise, but Republicans represented much of that territory in the early 1990s, until an unknown young lawyer named Barbara Buono won it back and held it for 18 years. Buono’s Assembly district mate, Peter Barnes, stepped up to take her place, but David Stahl, the Democrat-turned-Republican mayor of East Brunswick, is mounting a formidable challenge in a district Christie carried in 2009 and is expected to do so again.

Former Republican Sen. Peter Inverso is trying to make a comeback against Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) in the 14th, which became a tougher district for Greenstein when the Democratic bastion of South Brunswick was shifted out during redistricting. But Greenstein won by 10 points in 2011, her third consecutive win in as many years after an Assembly victory in 2009 and a Senate win in a special election in 2010.

Furthermore, Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson, her Democratic running mates from Hamilton Township, the giant Mercer County suburb that dominates the district, are strong assets. “They’re strong candidates in their own right who bring a lot to the ticket,” Murray noted. “She doesn’t have to carry in her running mates like Jeff Van Drew does.”

Sen. Van Drew, the popular Dennis Township dentist who was the first Cape May Democrat elected in memory, has some heavy lifting this year because incumbent Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Cumberland) is considered the most vulnerable Assembly incumbent in New Jersey because of his efforts to pull rank with a state trooper during a traffic stop. Albano apologized publicly for his behavior recently, but polls in his race have been close.

Murray isn’t expecting much change in the Legislature, though. “It’s going to be close, but in the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Democrats hang onto almost every one of those seats.”

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