TRENTON, NJ – Former U.S. President Donald Trump had two candidates vying for his support and endorsement in the New Jersey Republican primary election, Hirsh Singh and Phil Rizzo. Trump gave neither his support and that decision could end up not only hurting his America First agenda, but it could have handed the governorship back into the hands of Democrat Phil Murphy in November. An endorsement of either candidate by the President could have united his base in New Jersey.
Trump loyalists Phil Rizzo and Hirsh Singh split the Trump vote nearly down the middle and an endorsement of either candidate by the former President, who lost in 2020 to Joe Biden could have been the difference between a Trump-aligned candidate and a “never Trump” candidate winning the election.
In the end, anti-Trump candidate Jack Ciattarelli won the election with just 49% of the vote, sending a message to the Trump team that his support is not really needed in the blue state of New Jersey as Ciattarelli now tries to win over moderates and undecided voters in the primary election. It’s not clear whether or not Ciattarelli will try to rebuild his relationship with Trump supporters moving forward or with the non-establishment Republicans in the state.
Trump who has an active role in state level politics nationwide since leaving office decided to proceed with a hands off approach in the New Jersey primary election. It is uncertain if Trump will now put the winning candidate’s past aggressions against the former President aside and endorse Ciattarelli for Governor.
It’s unlikely. Ciattarelli issued extremely sharp criticism of Trump, saying he was unfit to be President and an embarrassment to America. When you factor in Trump’s personal friendship with Governor Phil Murphy, it looks as if Ciattarelli will have to go to war with the governor whose popularity among the majority Democrat population is soaring.
Trump spends a lot of time in New Jersey at his Bedminster estate and in April of 2020, he invited Governor Phil Murphy to the Oval Office where two exchanged pleasantries at the start of the pandemic. For Trump’s long term goals, New Jersey doesn’t matter. He lost New Jersey twice and if he runs in 2024, it would be an unrealistic expectation that he could win the state. For Trump, New Jersey was essentially a flyover state. He hosted one rally in Wildwood, but that was more for the benefit of Congressman Jeff Van Drew, not for the Trump campaign itself.
In many parts of New Jersey along the urbanized belt of Interstate 195, Trump is a four letter word in the heavily Democrat populated inner cities. Trump has a couple of outlying centers of support along the Jersey Shore and in the northwest Appalachian mountain foothills of the state, but the majority of the state’s voters are registered Democrats and staunch supporters of Governor Phil Murphy.