Murphy’s focus should be on N.J., not the national stage | Opinion

February 11, 2022 6:55 am

Governor Phil Murphy enters the inauguration festivities in Trenton on Jan. 18, 2022. (Amanda Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

Phil Murphy, do not pull a Chris Christie.

Allies of Murphy, our Democratic governor who started his second term just 24 days ago, are behind a new PAC and a nonprofit aimed at boosting his national profile, Matt Arco reported Monday.

This has all the hallmarks of a politician eyeing a promotion, either to president or maybe a Cabinet position as a consolation prize. As Christie proved back during his second term, this turns into a full-time job, and the ones who suffer are the people of New Jersey.

This is a difficult time for Murphy. He cannot run for a third term in 2025. The behind-the-scenes jockeying to succeed him has started. His days as an executive who can issue orders without having to cooperate with the Legislature appear to be numbered. His power will wane as his second term does.

But New Jersey cannot run on autopilot. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, for one: It’s exactly where it was when a Christie PAC launched in January 2015, six months before Christie made his presidential bid official. There aren’t many signs New Jersey is near full recovery from its pandemic job loss.

It’s not entirely clear NJ Transit has been fixed, either, something Murphy said he would do “if it kills me.” Clearly, the Murphy administration has overseen some improvements — advocating for a new Portal bridge, hiring more workers — but with the pandemic still affecting commuting schedules, this remains an incomplete for now.

Marijuana legalization, another of Murphy’s 2017 promises, remains in limbo. The state isn’t in quite the financial mess it was in eight years ago — first full pension payment in forever! great! — but the federal government has been showering the state with cash and Murphy took out billions in loans, so it’s not like budget wizardry is at work here.

Lots of politicians have ambitions beyond their current job, and it may be impossible for voters to find a New Jersey pol who would be content ending their political career as governor. But it’s hard not to get an ominous feeling of déjà vu when reading that Murphy has plans to get voters in other parts of the country to know more about him.

I don’t know if Murphy or anyone close to him sincerely believes he has a shot at the White House. A President Phil Murphy is unlikely — when was the last time a Massachusetts Democrat won favor with voters nationwide? — so Murphy should keep both eyes squarely on the job Garden State voters just gave him. 

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Terrence T. McDonald
Terrence T. McDonald

Editor Terrence T. McDonald is a native New Jerseyan who has worked for newspapers in the Garden State for more than 15 years. He has covered everything from Trenton politics to the smallest of municipal squabbles, exposing public corruption and general malfeasance at every level of government. Terrence won 23 New Jersey Press Association awards and two Tim O’Brien Awards for Investigative Journalism using the Open Public Records Act from the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. One politician forced to resign in disgrace because of Terrence’s reporting called him a "political poison pen journalist.”