New Jersey still close; Ciattarelli campaign rails at ‘irresponsible’ AP after calling tight race for Murphy

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The campaign of Republican gubernatorial challenger Jack Ciattarelli blasted The Associated Press after the newswire called the exceedingly tight race against Gov. Phil Murphy for the incumbent, saying it was “irresponsible” to do so as counting continued.

“With the candidates separated by a fraction of a percent out of 2.4 million ballots cast, it’s irresponsible of the media to make this call when the New Jersey Secretary of State doesn’t even know how many ballots are left to be counted,” Ciattarelli Campaign Communications Director Stami Williams noted on Twitter Wednesday.

The AP made the call around 6:30 p.m. EDT after a day in which the candidates’ votes remained within a few thousand of each other, and after Ciattarelli was leading for much of Wednesday.

“An upset victory for Ciattarelli would have added to an already hugely successful election day for Republicans, who had already seen Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin win in what had become a reliably blue state,” Fox News reported.

The tight race in New Jersey was as unexpected as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s loss in Virginia. President Biden won the Old Dominion State by 10 points a year ago, but he won in Jersey by nearly 16 points, and Murphy was expected to sail to reelection after carrying the state by 15 points in 2017 during his first run. Also, pre-election polling in the Garden State showed Murphy comfortably ahead.

Even in potential loss, however, some GOP political analysts look at Ciattarelli’s effort in New Jersey as a symbolic win as Republicans made inroads elsewhere around the country, including New York state and New York City.

In Texas, “in what might be a harbinger of things to come,” the Daily Wire reported, a Republican candidate for a state House seat — John Lujan — won in a district that is 75 percent Hispanic, flipping it from blue to red.

“The victory by Lujan gives Republicans an early win in their drive to make new inroads in South Texas after President Joe Biden underperformed there last year,” the Texas Tribune added.

With Tuesday’s key losses and the midterm election cycle is set to begin, Democrats have some soul-searching to do in regards to their and Biden’s agenda.

For instance, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics now rates Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada to “toss-ups” have rating leaning Democratic before the elections.

Also, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report tweeted that the results this week “are consistent [with] a political environment in which Republicans would comfortably take back both the House and Senate in 2022.”

As for the Ciattarelli-Murphy race, Republicans appear to be counting it as a win regardless of the eventual outcome.

“Even more significant than Virginia is New Jersey,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Wednesday. “We were not even competitive in the governor’s race up there, and yet, the Republican candidate whom no one knew almost won.”

“If you asked anybody several months ago within the state, I think anyone would have predicted a high double-digit landslide for Murphy,” noted Ashley Koning, head of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.

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