“He has other things to do,” Murphy said. “And I respect that.”
More notably, Murphy’s ambition played into Kane’s campaign, which routinely reminded voters they should elect a “prosecutor, not a politician.” Now, as a result of his 7-point primary loss, Murphy must select his next step carefully.
“He will have to be very strategic in picking his next run,” said Larry Ceisler, a Democratic consultant in Pennsylvania. “But the goodwill is there for him to have the requisite support. He is still very visible here and obviously wants to stay involved. He is still one of the key components of the future of the Democratic Party.”
Interviews with top Pennsylvania Democrats yielded few obvious paths for Murphy, who declined to talk specifics about his future. Democrats cautioned that Keystone State voters are not forgiving following multiple losses. Still, they suggested various routes for Murphy to return to politics:
• He could run for local office, such as county commissioner or the state Legislature. There’s precedent for this: After former Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) lost his 2004 Senate bid, he became Montgomery County commissioner. But Democrats said Murphy wouldn’t settle for managing municipalities or hand-wringing in Harrisburg given his national persona.
• Murphy could run for his former House seat in a couple of years. He has ardently campaigned and raised money for the Democratic nominee against Fitzpatrick, attorney Kathy Boockvar. But Murphy would be the best possible future candidate for the seat if she is not successful in November. Still, in an interview, Murphy emphasized he wants to stay in Pennsylvania now to raise his two children.
• Murphy could lay low in the private sector for a few years until there’s an opening for statewide office again, perhaps for attorney general or lieutenant governor. Any kind of appointment to the Obama administration would help him in the meantime. This seems his most likely path to return to office.
“Patrick has to wait for the right opportunity,” said a Democratic operative who knows Murphy. “Not the next opportunity, but the right one. The one that shows his passion. The one that he can own. I don’t know what that opportunity is, but no matter what, waiting, and maintaining a political presence while maintaining his donor list is critical.”
And this week, Murphy appears to be doing exactly that.