Jack Ciattarrelli was the top vote-getter in New Jersey's Republican primary for governor in early June. But if a heads-up race with incumbent Phil Murphy were to happen today, he wouldn't fare better than any other Republican, according to poll results released Monday.

Murphy records a 15-point lead over Ciattarelli — 48 to 33 — in a Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll of registered New Jersey voters. The same margin was recorded when the poll took Ciattarelli out of the equation and pitted Murphy against an unnamed Republican challenger.

"Remember, we just had the primary very recently, and a lot of people still have no idea who the Republican challenger is," said Dan Cassino, executive director of the poll, and a professor of government and politics at FDU. "Democrats have a significant edge in New Jersey. So, in order to win statewide, Republican candidates need to outperform a generic candidate, and so far, Ciattarelli just isn't doing that."

In the poll, 70% of respondents said they don't know enough about Ciattarelli to have an opinion about him. He's viewed favorably by 16% of voters, and unfavorably by 14%. Seventeen percent of respondents volunteered the information that they have never heard of Ciattarelli. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have a favorable view of the former assemblyman.

"If I'm Jack Ciattarelli, I'm happier being unknown than being disliked," Cassino said.

But getting yourself known in New Jersey, Cassino added, is an expensive proposition, given the steep price of television advertisements.

Murphy, a Democrat, receives a largely positive review in the FDU poll  — because he is the sitting governor, the Nov. 2 race is viewed by experts as a referendum on his governorship. Fifty percent of poll respondents said they approve of the job Murphy is doing, and 39% said they disapprove.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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