A survey conducted by former campaign manager for former President Donald J. Trump shows that Jack Ciattarelli was a weak candidate with a weak platform and that contributed heavily to his loss against Phil Murphy on Election Day.
In a post-election survey conducted by Bill Stepien’s National Public Affairs, results showed that one of the main problems for Republicans in the 2021 election against a weak and unpopular Democrat governor was the Republican candidate.
A red wave swept across America and in parts of Republican dominated counties New Jersey, but with the odds in his favor and plenty of campaign hot topics to choose from, Ciattarelli’s and his campaign couldn’t win. He lost by three percentage points, nearly 100,000 voters in a state where virtually anyone you talk to, disagrees with the direction the state is moving toward under Governor Murphy.
“For the first time in recent memory, the national winds were at New Jersey Republicans’ backs – and they blew strong. The last time a New Jersey Democrat governor faced re-election, the Democrat President had a +14 image rating (10/20/09 Monmouth University poll). Conversely, President Biden had a negative image rating and was deeply unpopular in New Jersey this November: 6-in-10 Independents view Biden unfavorably and nearly 1-in-5 Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of him,” Stepien said. “The poor national environment for Democrats similarly affected Governor Murphy, turning his image rating upside down (49 favorable-49.5 unfavorable), …and the intensity against him was palpable: 40% of voters view Murphy very unfavorably, including 47% of Independents.”
Ciattarelli’s biggest problem was his campaign, managed by Chris Russell of Checkmate Wins. Russell and Ciattarelli avoided all of the hot button issues and failed to tell voters who the candidate was, other than he wasn’t Phil Murphy.
“Republicans were moved much more by the political climate than by their candidate,” Stepien said. “Only 4% of Ciattarelli voters say they were motivated to vote based primarily on their support for him; 83% voted for Ciattarelli based on their dissatisfaction with the country and state.”
Ciattarelli avoided hot button issues during his campaign such as critical race theory and sex education to young school children. Despite an outbreak of negative news from several school boards including, a perverse and pornographic curriculum document on the state’s third largest school district’s website, Toms River, Ciattarelli avoided the topic and Stepien says that cost him dearly.
The GOP candidate also made sure to steer clear of the Project Veritas bombshell video in the final days of the election that had key Murphy staff members on video talking about mask mandates. He avoided immigration, the multiple Biden driven crises in America and never really connected to the die-hard conservative base. Many Republicans who voted for Trump in 2020 simply stayed home for Ciattarelli in 2021.
“Critical Race Theory and illegal immigration would have been messaging gas pedals for Jack Ciattarelli. 75% of Republican Ciattarelli voters say they would have more enthusiastically supported the republican’s candidacy had he prioritized CRT and illegal immigration themes,” Stepien said. “These issues would have played well beyond the Republican base: they would have been a motivator for 63% of Independent Ciattarelli voters. CRT and immigration themes didn’t scare off Ciattarelli’s female Independents: among Ciattarelli voters, 74% of female Independents wanted to hear more about the issues from their
candidate. CRT would have had a positive effect with parents: 60% of Ciattarelli voters under the age of
50 would have been more enthusiastic to cast their ballot for the Republican.”
The 2021 election was there for Jack and Russell to lose and they did. In many voting districts, including one ward in Toms River, the Republican candidate for council down-ballot, Dan Rodrick, a Republican received more votes in his ward than Ciattarelli.
Still, despite the defeat, one the latest in Russell’s string of high profile losses, candidates in the 2022 midterms are lining up to give him money and they’re not expected to fare any better. Russell has a track record of winning easy-to-win elections in Republican-dominated strongholds, but when it comes to tough statewide races, he has been a perennial loser.
Ciattarelli and Russell failed to motivate conservative voters who were gunshy over his criticism of Donald Trump, pro-choice stance and lackluster career as a New Jersey Assemblyman.
After his loss, Ciattarelli announced he will run again in 2025 and double down on the key issues that lead to his failure in 2021, saying he isn’t going to change a thing. In 2025, he will be running against more popular Democrats. Some names being tossed out early are Monmouth County Democrat Vin Gopal and defeated former Senate President Steve Sweeney. Both of those candidates would be stronger than Murphy and unless Ciattarelli and Russell see the light in their failures, Ciattarelli isn’t going to even make it out of the 2025 primaries, unless the GOP chairman get together again and call in the fix to keep other challengers off the line.
Ciattarelli at this point cannot expect to defeat a popular Democrat when he couldn’t defeat an extremely unpopular one.