‘There’s a lot of hurt out there,’ N.J. governor says of close reelection

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Sunday acknowledged deep frustration among voters just days after winning reelection by a surprisingly close margin and an overall poor showing by Democrats.

"It's quite clear there's a lot of hurt out there," Murphy said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And there are a lot of kitchen tables that we need to connect more deeply with and help folks get through this period, whether they lost a loved one, a job, a small business, they're frustrated by the ongoing pandemic or economic recovery, whatever it may be."

The top executive won a second term in an unexpectedly tight election over Republican Jack Ciattarelli in a state President Joe Biden easily won a year ago. It was an unusually poor showing in the deep-blue state, which also saw State Senate President Steve Sweeney unseated in an upset.

Murphy predicted the results may have been even worse for Garden State Democrats absent expansions of some key programs and the raising of the minimum wage.

"Thank God we put the programs in place … whether it's expanding pre-K, raising the minimum wage, investing in all-time record levels in infrastructure, because I think had we not, we might have been swept away as well," Murphy said.

Democrats also took a shellacking in Virginia, where former Gov. Terry McAuliffe lost a return bid to Republican Glenn Youngkin. Both gubernatorial contests are often seen as bellwethers for the upcoming congressional midterm elections.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday that the poor showing by Democrats "sent a message" for faster action to enact Biden's agenda. Lawmakers followed on Friday by sending a bipartisan $550 billion infrastructure bill to Biden's desk. Democrats, meanwhile, continue to sort through a $1.75 trillion social spending package.

Murphy called the infrastructure legislation "a game-changer." But he said the debate over the Democratic-only spending package, known as Build Back Better, "feels very abstract" in New Jersey.

"New Jersey is doing it — expanding pre-K, expanding child care, funding public education, making housing more affordable, college more affordable, health care more affordable," Murphy said.

"So you look at that debate in Washington and … folks feel like, ‘Well, I wonder if this would work.'" he said. "And I'm screaming out, ‘Listen, look at New Jersey, it is working.'"

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