Phil Murphy is very popular right now, but …
For the past several months, New Jersey residents have repeatedly voiced their displeasure with Chris Christie, giving him extremely low approval numbers across several polls.
At the same time, many New Jerseyans have expressed optimism about the man succeeding Christie as governor — Phil Murphy.
But the honeymoon may not last very long.
“People in New Jersey have been burned by a generation of politicians who promised to lower their taxes, but they haven’t done it,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
He said most Garden State residents will soon be asking, “What are you going to do for us?' and Phil Murphy is going to have to answer that question, probably for the first time, 'cause he had such an easy time of it coming into office.”
Murray said it feels like Murphy is getting the benefit of the doubt right now in part because of “just how unpopular Chris Christie is — he’s the least popular governor that any of us have seen in our lifetimes.”
So how long will it be before New Jerseyans will start judging Murphy with a more critical eye?
“It really won’t take long at all, because the governor has to prove himself with his very first budget, so we’ll know by June where is starting point really is," Murray said.
Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University, agrees.
“Nobody walks on water, and it’s a very challenging time for somebody like Phil Murphy," Dworkin said.
Dworkin said he expects Murphy to be very focused on the state economy early on, and if people believe he’s creating jobs and moving the state forward, his approval numbers will stay strong for a while 1 but eventually the honeymoon will be over.
“That may well take 6 months, because in 6 months the Murphy administration and the Democratic-led legislature has to finalize a budget," Dworkin said.
Murray said most New Jerseyans aren’t really focused on Phil Murphy yet, but soon, “when they start paying attention, the first question they will ask is, 'Is my cost of living in New Jersey going down?' And if there’s not a positive answer to that question, it’s going to be very difficult for him.”
Dworkin said if people like the budget deal that’s eventually hammered out, Murphy will stay popular, “but more than likely they’re going to have to make some very tough decisions, cuts might have to be made, and if that happens you begin to lose some of the luster you have on inauguration day.”
“It is inevitable that your numbers go down, your approval numbers go down as you make the tough decisions," he said.
Dworkin pointed out during the campaign Murphy never promised he was going to accomplish everything he wanted to change in his first year, but rather, tried to get across a message of priorities
“The way to succeed as a politician is to create a broader storyline, a broader understanding — 'What are we fighting for?' If they’re able to articulate that and show people, 'We’re focused on New Jersey and doing what we can do,' then that will be the kind of storyline that will help maintain a certain level of support," he said.
More from New Jersey 101.5:
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com