A Quinnipac poll released Wednesday found that Democratic former U.S. ambassador and Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy is holding onto his early lead in New Jersey’s gubernatorial contest, while Republican lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno is coming in ahead of comedian Joe Piscopo, her chief primary rival.
In a general election matchup, Murphy leads Guadagno 47 – 25 percent, with 25 percent undecided as to who they would choose to succeed Governor Chris Christie when he is term-limited out next year.
“Murphy gets 23 percent in a Democratic primary, with 6 percent for Assembly member John Wisniewski, 4 percent each for former U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Jim Johnson and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak and 2 percent for activist Bill Brennan. Most voters, 57 percent, are undecided,” wrote an analyst with Quinnipac.
“In a Republican primary, Guadagno leads with 28 percent, followed by 18 percent for comedian Joe Piscopo, 3 percent for Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli, 2 percent for Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers and 1 percent for entrepreneur Joseph Rullo. Another 42 percent are undecided.”
Echoing a Farleigh Dickinson poll from February, name recognition was a problem for both Murphy and Guadagno with just 30 percent of respondents saying the knew enough to form an opinion of Murphy and 37 percent saying the same about Guadagno.
Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said he would not count Piscopo out at this stage in the race.
“Question: Can a TV comic such as Joe Piscopo be a serious candidate for governor of New Jersey? Answer: Remember Ronald Reagan. The leading candidates – Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy – are little known, despite her years as lieutenant governor and the huge amount of money he already has spent,” Carroll said.
“Will that change if they win the nominations? Sure, but it’s hardly an auspicious start.”
The poll also found that Christie’s approval ratings are still mired in the teens, with respondents disapproving of his job performance 76 – 19 percent. Though Guadagno has been critical of Christie’s willingness to compromise with state Democrats on an unpopular gas tax hike in an attempt to distance herself from the governor, the Christie connection could remain a hurdle if she wins the nomination.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,098 New Jersey voters between March 9-13 with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. Respondents included 450 Democrats with a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points and 315 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points. Live interviewers called landlines and cell phones.
See the rest of the poll’s findings here.