In spite of coming into the New Jersey gubernatorial race as an underdog, Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli has put in a very solid effort and is tied with Democrat incumbent Governor Phil Murphy after Tuesday’s vote – even though the latter was supposed to be the favorite.

GOP surprise

Even though New Jersey went to Joe Biden by a 16-point lead in the 2020 election as per the official results, in the early hours on Wednesday, the GOP’s Ciattarelli had actually come on up with a small lead of 1,200 votes.

Before that, with 80% of the electoral precincts reporting, Fox News projected 50.1% for him and 49.2% for Murphy with 80% of the cast votes counted, with a lead of about 20,000, 1.77 million votes vs. 1.57 million votes.

As of 3 pm on Wednesday, however, the situation was slightly reversed, with 1.201 votes for the Democrat incumbent and 1.186 votes for Ciattarelli, a Democrat lead of some 15,000 votes, or 49.9% vs. 49.3%.

That tally was with a total of 97.7% of the precincts reporting.

According to the Associated Press, the race is too close to call, and votes are still being tallied.

Some of the counties hadn’t factored in early absentee ballots meaning that the final results might not be known even for a few more days in the worst-case scenario.

Ciattarelli has been a pleasant surprise as he was pitted against an incumbent favored to win, who has an advantage of 1 million voter registrations and had raised substantially more cash than him.

The GOP candidate managed to close the gaps in fundraising and in the polls just in the very last days before Tuesday’s vote.

Both waiting to declare victory

Despite gaining electoral momentum, and enjoying at first a small lead, around 12:30 am on Wednesday, Ciattarelli declared he couldn’t claim victory for the time being because votes remained to be counted.

Nevertheless, he made it clear that he fully expected to have to make that victory declaration, and will do so when every vote of the New Jersey voters is counted.

At his camp in Bridgewater, the Republican vowed to start fixing the state as soon as he declares victory so that New Jersey could become a great place for everyone to “live, work, retire” as well as “start and business” and “raise a family.”

At the same time, the Democrat incumbent governor, at his headquarters in Asbury Park, told his supporters that they would have to wait for longer than expected before he could declare victory because “that’s how our democracy works”.

If Murphy does end up winning, that would be the first victory for a Democrat incumbent in the state since Brendan Byrne’s victory in 1977.

However, a potential victory for GOP’s Jack Ciattarelli, a former state lawmaker, would send jolts throughout the Democratic Party and the Biden administration, especially against the backdrop of Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory against Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.

It will be a clear declaration that Democrats in Congress and the administration of Empty Shelves Joe are failing miserably at running the country.

Not that this isn’t already clear in many other ways.