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Mr. Biden goes to Manville

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Good Wednesday morning!

President Biden visited New Jersey to tour storm damage in Manville — a Republican-leaning town just a few miles from Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli’s hometown of Raritan. I can see two basic ways this cuts politically.

One is that Murphy gets blame for mishandling the fallout from the storm. Ciattarelli is already working on this, calling for legislative hearings into the governor’s response. That was never realistic. Democratic lawmakers who dislike Murphy aren’t going to call the Legislature back into session to hold hearings that could be damaging for the person leading their ticket. But even Republican legislative leaders didn’t join in the call. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union), who’s running for state Senate, told me he’s more focused on his hard-hit district’s recovery than legislative hearings.

If Murphy doesn’t get more blame, then the campaign focus is more likely to be on global warming. The president and governor have already hit that message hard. And Ciattarelli’s pre-Ida statements backing natural gas and opposing subsidies for wind energy will be easy fodder for the Murphy campaign — even if on Wednesday Ciattarelli told POLITICO’s Daniel Han he supports a national policy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Add that to the Texas abortion law, and Murphy gets two issues that already play well in a blue state.

There’s two months left to go, and campaign-changing events can still happen. So far, this isn’t one of them.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’ve acquired other one-of-a-kind documents and manuscripts, but nothing, nothing of this magnitude in American history; there’s not much you can acquire like this.” — George [Norcross] III on buying a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence

WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Trenton for a coronavirus press conference

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Assemblymember Nancy Munoz

POLITICAL CLIMATE — Biden tours flood-ravaged N.J., NYC, says infrastructure plan needed to deal with climate change, by POLITICO’s Ry Rivard and Katherine Landergan: President Joe Biden on Tuesday surveyed the damage caused by last week’s deadly storms in New York and New Jersey, promising to help flood-ravaged communities he said are likely to get hit again and again by a changing and violent climate. Democrats, including Biden, argued the storms spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Ida were uniquely destructive and should make climate change a meat-and-potatoes issue before similar storms strike again.

While hurricanes have struck the Northeast before, officials were stunned by the record rains that quickly fell, overwhelming predictions, expectations and the ability to act. Some areas of the region saw as much as 10 inches of rain fall in a matter of hours. Biden argued that now is the time to take prompt action, including on his infrastructure plans. “This is an opportunity,” Biden said as he met with officials in Hillsborough, N.J., before touring nearby Manville. “The country has finally acknowledged the fact that global warming is real, and it’s moving at an incredible pace, we’ve got to do something about it … In New York, his message was similar: He hoped Ida’s destruction could serve as a wake-up call for climate skeptics.”

DEBATE PREP — With the first gubernatorial debate coming later this month, Assemblymember John McKeon (D-Essex) is doing a Jack Ciattarelli impression for Gov. Murphy’s debate prep. For Ciattarelli, Assemblymember Jay Webber (R-Morris) is doing his best Murphy. Republican Lt. Gov. candidate Diane Allen is going faux-to-faux with state Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), who’s playing Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. My question: Who’s playing Allen in Oliver’s debate prep? I haven’t gotten that info yet.

THE TRUMP CARD — “The Trump suburban squirm,” by The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere: “For first-term presidents, two governor’s races have become bellwethers for the national political mood: Virginia, where McAuliffe is campaigning, and New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy is up for reelection this year … Read: Revenge of the suburbs For the moment, the party’s future is riding on two white businessmen—Bill Clinton’s best buddy (McAuliffe) and a former Goldman Sachs executive (Murphy)—who both happen to be 64 years old. They’ll have to appeal to voters who aren’t caught up in each revelation about how close America came to a coup, who never use the words filibuster reform or reconciliation.

“These voters instead think about inflation and rising gas prices; students’ absence from school and teachers’ unions pushing back on in-person classes; mask mandates and vaccine holdouts; police brutality and rising crime. But McAuliffe and Murphy, as much as they discuss those issues, want to keep steering the conversation back to Trump. They know that the former president and his most hard-core followers won’t abide any wavering allegiance. And they know that any mention of the former president in connection with Republican candidates repels many moderates from voting red.”

—“‘Hit him hard’: The contest for NJ governor is already a race to the bottom,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “Ciattarelli, who had the reputation of an establishment Republican centrist, seems bent on ignoring that tradition. His strategy forged over the summer has been fairly clear: Appeal to the pro-Trump diehards on the right by painting Murphy as an extremist who takes his marching orders from the radical left. Suggest that Murphy’s not a real Jersey guy, but some sort of dilletante-ish ‘other‘ who doesn’t understand or care about the needs of workaday New Jersey residents. And go negative in hopes of dimming the positive, progressive halo that hovers over Murphy by calling into question his COVID-19 management and discrediting his ‘survivor-centric‘ record toward women in the workplace.

“Meanwhile, the Murphy campaign is also intent on negative typecasting Ciattarelli. The Murphy campaign constantly depicts the self-described Jersey native Ciattarelli as out of step with mainstream New Jersey voters. Daily, the governor’s camp accuses Ciattarelli of pandering to the Republican Party’s anti-science, COVID-denying base that’s intoxicated with conspiracy theories and Trump’s fury. If Ciattarelli’s goal is to depress Democrats and independents, the Murphy campaign seem intent on driving out its base by frightening voters…

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