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Grapevine: Outsiders not making dent

According to several sources within the state's business community, anyone running for governor of New Jersey not named Phil Murphy or Kim Guadagno has largely failed to impress over the last few months.

Little to nothing has been done by the outside candidates to really put a dent into the perceived leads of the frontrunners, Murphy with the Democrats and Guadagno with the Republicans.

“Guadagno and Murphy are far and away the heavy favorites here,” said one source.

That’s not to say the frontrunners are knocking it out of the park, either. A Quinnipiac poll released last week showed Murphy ahead of all Democrats by double-digits, with 23 percent support, while Guadagno led all Republicans, with 28 percent. But take into account that some 57 percent of all voters said they are still undecided at this time, and comedian Joe Piscopo, who has yet to even enter the race, trails Guadagno by just 10 percentage points at 18 percent support.

Normally, that would be a sign for optimism from any outside candidate looking to make a run at the top. But with Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerville) failing to even get on some county GOP convention ballots and Democrats such as Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) and state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) struggling to still make their impact on the race, it’s tough to see where the inroads will be made.

Or even if they’ll meet the $430,000 threshold needed to get matching campaign funds.

“I don’t see much of a path for Lesniak or Wisniewski to run to the left of Phil Murphy,” one source added. “Both candidates, along with Ciattarelli on the GOP side, are also unlikely to even qualify for matching funds.”

Is money grab blast from past?

Is everyone just chasing ghosts?

That seems to be the popular response to rumors of the origins of Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to have Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey hand over $300 million, spread over two years, from its reserves to fund health care initiatives.

Why was the decade-old idea resurrected?

One school of thought is that, with a large turnover in the Christie administration, newcomers were simply digging up old budget drafts for ideas on how to structure this year’s.

The other school of thought suggests George Norcross, who has openly supported the idea of a conversion of Horizon to a for-profit, is behind it.

In fact, there are those who believe, without a doubt, that he is behind the idea this time.

But one insider said everyone who thinks that “is just chasing ghosts.”

With Cooper University Health Care’s reported 20 percent stake in AmeriHealth, the Cranbury-based insurance company that is operated by Independence Blue Cross in Pennsylvania, it appears some are convinced the move was made to weaken the state’s largest insurer. Currently, AmeriHealth and Horizon, essentially two “blues plans,” are the only two competitors left in the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace. But they are not the only competitors in the state.

And, one insider said Cooper’s stake in AmeriHealth is actually only about 1 percent, so there is no reason to take a jab at Horizon over such a small potential benefit.

Especially if the idea of a conversion is not on the table.

A few insiders said it’s no secret that Norcross thinks it would be a good business decision — for the state and for Horizon — to convert to a for-profit. His belief is that the conversion could help support the state’s pensions, one insider said.

Regardless, the move to raid Horizon seems to be Christie’s attempt to cement a legacy for himself.

Or, as another source put it:

“We’ve had an opioid crisis for years, and now, suddenly, the governor wants to solve it?” one asked.

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