How do you think Gov. Phil Murphy is handling the COVID-19 crisis?

There was some criticism of his decision to close county and state parks last week but many believe the governor has done a good job overall in handling a difficult situation.

According to Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rowan University Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship, the COVID-19 pandemic has put Murphy in a position where he is being defined as a "wartime" leader.

He said in this kind of crisis, there are four keys to good leadership: solid communication, sharing information that is reliable and accurate, steady and calm demeanor, and definitive decision-making.

“Murphy and his administration have largely hit all of these boxes and that’s why he is being seen, I think, largely in very positive ways," Dworkin said. "There isn’t a wishy-washy approach.”

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that people in a crisis want a leader with a firm hand on the tiller, someone who shows they have government under control.

“He’s out there every day. His message has been consistent. Those are the kinds of things people will really react to," Murray said about Murphy.

He said while no polling has been done yet on this, governors across the county, especially those that have been really strict and clamped down on social distancing, “have gotten very high marks and certainly Gov. Murphy has been in the lead of that.”

During his first 13 months in office, the progressive Democratic Murphy frequently disagreed with populist Republican President Donald Trump on a number of issues, including immigration and environmental policies. But over the past several weeks, Murphy has gone out of his way to praise the White House for sending ventilators and other supplies to the Garden State.

“I think it behooves every governor who needs to rely on billions of dollars from federal spending in order to keep their states afloat to be nice," Dworkin said. “It’s not the time to be picking fights over other policy issues. The preeminent issue right now is to just deal with the health issue.”

“Whatever the history was, that has been pushed to the side. There will be plenty of time to fight over those policy issues later.”

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Murray points out Murphy is not confrontational by nature.

“He’s positioned himself as someone who tries to get things done and does try to work across the aisle and doesn’t throw firebombs. And I think that is serving him well.”

Dworkin said New Jersey has seen other leaders who usually oppose each other coming together during a crisis, including the famous Gov. Chris Christie hug with President Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy.

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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