Speed Reads

Horseshoes and hand grenades

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's re-election was a historical rarity, but the narrow margin was not

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) appears to have won re-election to a second term on Tuesday, though the race was so close The Associated Press and other new organizations did not call it until about 24 hours after the polls closed. Murphy was trailing Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli until Wednesday morning, when returns from historically Democratic parts of New Jersey finally came in. 

It isn't clear how large Murphy's eventual margin of victory will be — he leads by 1.2 percentage points with 98 percent of precincts reporting and 90 percent of the estimated vote counted, AP reports — but the unexpectedly narrow results rattled Democrats already reeling from Democrat Terry McAuliffe's loss in Virginia. 

At the same time, history was working against the Democrats in both races — Virginia almost always elects a governor from the opposite party of the president, and before Murphy, no Democrat had won a second term in New Jersey since Brendan Byrne In 1977. Murphy is "also the first Democrat since Byrne to win during the first term of a [Democratic] president," The Nation's John Nichols notes. And while Murphy's breaking of a 44-year Democratic re-election curse is pretty unusual, his narrow margin of victory is not, as "political junkie" and "amateur historian" Russell Drew pointed out on Twitter.

Also, not every Democrat eked out a win on Tuesday. "In perhaps the most shocking result of Election Day in New Jersey, longtime state Senate President Steve Sweeney is trailing by more than 2,000 votes to a commercial truck driver named Edward Durr" who "spent just $153 on his campaign," NBC 10 Philadelphia reports. "Sweeney has not yet conceded, but his loss throws leadership in the New Jersey Legislature into uncertainty."

Ciattarelli also has not conceded the governors race, but Murphy gave a victory speech in Asbury Park on Wednesday night. "Tonight, I renew my promise to you — whether you voted for me or not — to work every single day of the next four years to keep moving us forward," he said.