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Gov. Phil Murphy on the prescription for Biden’s re-election
Begin and end with infrastructure, lean into age and take the debate.
Phil Murphy is in the second term of his governorship of New Jersey — my home state — and a potential 2028 presidential contender. I recently snagged him on the phone for a conversation about the early contours of the 2024 race, the best case for President Biden’s re-elect and how to deal with the incumbent’s No. 1 vulnerability.
Here’s part of my recent interview with him, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Catanese: Biden rolled out “Let’s Finish The Job” as his re-elect slogan. What do you think that job is?
Murphy: I think the job is three-fold…Number one, continue to get back fully back on our feet post the pandemic and we’re largely doing that. Secondly, work our way through the economic choppiness that we’re dealing with, whether its inflation or banking scares and I think as part of that, not just playing defense through choppy waters but to continue the work to transform our economy on the back of things like the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act, the bipartisan Infrastructure Act … And then thirdly, the continued protection of the soul of our democracy and our American values. That to me is the three-headed job that he has made enormous progress on and he wants to hang in there for the next four years and finish all three of those jobs.
Catanese: Is there an accomplishment on the state level that you think the administration/campaign should highlight more? There’s so much in these big, gargantuan pieces of legislation in Washington that people not seem to really know about.
Murphy: I would begin and end with infrastructure. We’ve got the nation’s largest infrastructure project, which is the Gateway Program, building two new rail tunnels under the Hudson, big investments on both sides of the Hudson, modernizing the rail tunnels that are there. He’s already been staple to that. You’re absolutely right. We can never allow these massive bills that he very deftly shepherded through with Congress and signed to become abstract to the American people. They have to be real.
Catanese: How does he assuage fears about age, which will come up repeatedly and be wielded by Republicans. How should the campaign assuage regular voters?
Murphy: I was with him two nights ago … This guy’s still on top of his game and I think the more people see him and see how on top of the game he is. In other words, actions will speak a lot louder than words. Folks seeing this commander-in-chief, this president, clearly in charge, clearly on top of his game. That’s worth any amount of words you can speak. Secondly, you heard him the other day say, with the South Korean president, ‘I can’t even get the word 80 out of my mouth.’ I think actions louder than words but also don’t shy away from it. Say, ‘Listen, I can’t even believe it myself. But here I am and I’m going strong.’ I think acknowledging it is smart.
Catanese: So you think he should lean into the age piece and talk about it more?
Murphy: I think you’re already seeing that he’s doing that. More importantly than what I think, what he thinks is what matters. You just see him doing it and I think that’s smart.
Catanese: Should he debate Trump?
Murphy: Oh I’m sure he will debate him. Whoever the nominee is. Whether it’s Trump or not. He’s a good debater. He’s going to absolutely debate him, whoever the nominee is.