Following last night’s debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Monmouth University political scientist Patrick Murray conceded the 2013 gubernatorial race may have just gotten a little more interesting.
Most media outlets in the aftermath of the debate declared Republican Romney the winner. If the GOP candidate gets a burst of life heading into the final weeks of the campaign and overcomes the odds to beat the sitting president, he narrows the presidential option for Gov. Chris Christie, Murray said.
“In New Jersey, this will be a domino effect, with Democrats far down the line,” Murray told PolitickerNJ.com. “The first domino if Mitt Romney wins is it’s clear Chris Christie will not be running for president in 2016.”
So what does he do next?
“He could get a plum appointment in the Romney administration, or does he decide to serve out another term?” Murray said. “It all hinges on one thing: Does Mitt Romney choose him as his attorney general? Any other position he won’t take. If the answer is no, he still has to make a decision but he is not making that decision from a position of strength.”
Murray dismissed as unscientific the common perception that the party winning the presidential election consequently loses the New Jersey governor’s election.
“It’s coincidental that it’s happened that way,” the political scientist said. “It’s happened a couple of times recently, but it’s totally coincidental. Jon Corzine lost because Jon Corzine lost, not because Barack Obama won. Jim Florio lost because of a tax hike, not because Bill Clinton won.”
Murray agreed with most pundits who gave last night’s win to Romney, but he disagreed that the president’s loss is unrecoverable.
“No question it was a win for Romney,” said Murray. “If Obama was engaged it could have been a loss for him. There is the potential that Romney’s answer on the tax question could come back and bite him in key states. Romney won the debate. Certainly he did not win the election. The president playing prevent defense was a dumb political move because you’re only up by a field goal at the start of the fourth quarter.”