Obama presses for Corzine in N.J.

By Philip Elliott
Associated Press / November 2, 2009

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CAMDEN, N.J. - In a final campaign swing on behalf of the only governor seeking reelection this fall, President Obama yesterday pitched Democrat Jon Corzine’s bid as a key component for the White House to make good on its political promises.

“He’s one of the best partners I have in the White House,’’ Obama said. “We work together. We know our work is far from over.’’

The closely fought New Jersey race might provide a much-needed win for Obama and the Democratic Party, which trails in the nation’s only other governor’s race on the ballot tomorrow.

Virginia appears to be heading in favor of Republican Bob McDonnell. White House aides are bracing for Democrat Creigh Deeds’s loss and already are girding for criticism that Obama did not do enough to help what they describe as a flawed candidate.

Obama, who drew 5,500 people at a rally in Camden and another 11,000 later in Newark yesterday, urged supporters to work hard to give Corzine another term in office so that he can work with Washington to help repair a brittle economy. A Corzine loss would be seen as a political embarrassment for the White House.

Obama tagged Republican leadership and lax regulations for the economic crisis and dismissed GOP candidate Chris Christie’s criticism of Corzine. Their race is seen as a tossup, and a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll released yesterday found Christie backed by 43 percent of likely voters and Corzine by 42 percent.

“It wasn’t a consequence of Obama policies or Corzine policies that we went into this hole,’’ the president said during a raucous campaign stop in Camden. “There seems to be some selective memory going on here.’’

In Newark, Obama kept the campaign personal: “I know this man. When I was running for the United States Senate, before anybody knew my name, Jon Corzine offered his support.’’

Corzine, entering the final push of his close re-election bid, wrapped himself in Obama’s brand, calling him “our friend, our partner.’’ He took the stage to a Stevie Wonder tune, a staple from the Obama campaign soundtrack. Citing Obama’s win a year ago, he said a victory on Tuesday would help him support the White House’s agenda.

“I’m here to ask you a simple question: Are you ready to keep it going?’’ Corzine said. “Today I am standing with President Obama. That tells you everything you need to know.’’

Obama’s team already is looking ahead to next year’s election. In 2010, 37 governorships will be up for grabs and more than a third of the Senate is on the ballot with every member of the House. On Wednesday, Obama will head to Wisconsin, which will elect a governor next year.

Obama aides are realistic about Deeds’s seemingly slim chances in a state that Obama won last November. That hard-fought presidential victory was especially prized because Virginia had been reliably Republican in national races.

Although the White House has sought to portray both the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races as routine, by sundown yesterday, Obama had attended five events for Corzine. His schedule almost returned to campaign mode in hopes that Obama could help steady his party’s fortunes.

Democrats wanted to avoid having the Virginia race seen as a test of Obama, who campaigned earlier for Deeds.

Instead, the White House chose New Jersey as the final destination for Obama’s political travel this cycle. It borders presidential must-win Pennsylvania; Air Force One landed in Philadelphia to deliver Obama to Camden yesterday.