HOLMDEL - President Obama today praised Gov. Corzine as a man who "cares about what is right for New Jersey."

"I want you to know I'm proud to stand with a man who wakes up every day thinking of your future and the future of Jersey, and that's Governor Jon Corzine," Obama said.

The president appeared this afternoon at a rally for Corzine at the PNC Bank Arts Center. The crowd rose to its feet, screaming and clapping, as Obama entered the arena and hugged Corzine, around 4:15 p.m.

Obama said Corzine has protected funding for schools in New Jersey, and caused "more property tax relief than any other governor in New Jersey history."

Earlier, Corzine said Obama gave New Jersey a "partner in the White House."

State Sen. Dana Redd of Camden spoke before Corzine, saying: "Today we are so excited to have none other than our president of the United States. I'm so excited to see so many new and young faces who are excited about this campaign."

Hours before Obama's arrival, supporters started gathering in Holmdel.

The governor's campaign is hoping the Obama visit can help reverse Corzine's poor approval ratings, shore up Democratic support and bring Obama surge voters into Corzine's camp.

Since last summer, Corzine has been trailing Republican nominee Christopher J. Christie in the polls.

Most of this week, Christie has been trying to counteract the Obama effect by touring the state with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele as well as releasing his urban platform in Democratic strongholds. including Camden and Newark.

The Obama rally caused so much excitement, that Corzine's staff had to relocate it from the lawn at Rutgers University to the 17,000-seat PNC center on the Garden State Parkway in Holmdel.

Still, most of the 52,000 people who signed up to attend the rally were turned down for tickets but promised priority placement at the president's next visit.

Parking lots opened at 11 a.m. at the center and school buses unloaded scores of people arena, creating a long line at the will-call ticket window.

Those with tickets lined up outside the security gates, where event staff said the Secret Service will begin checking people and letting them in later in the afternoon.

Some waiting in line sported Obama/Biden pins, or T-shirts saying "Yes we did," and "Got hope? www.barackobama.com."; Vendors walked around selling Obama pins.

Some of those waiting were excited both for Gov. Corzine and President Obama.

"We're here to support our governor," said Stephanie Delke of Asbury Park. "And also catch a glimpse of the president."

Others were noncommittal about the governor, saying they were mostly there to see Obama.

"This is a good gimmick to get us to listen to Corzine," said Chris Monroe, of Roselle.

"State workers like me are upset with Corzine because of the furlough situation," said Monroe, who works for the Division of Youth and Family Services.

Asked if Obama stumping for Corzine would affect his vote, he said, "Honestly, I have to see."

"I'm iffy on Corzine but I find [Republican challenger Chris] Christie pretty repulsive," said Sara Tofighbakash, 19, a rising sophomore at Rutgers. "A lot of Rutgers students are upset with Corzine because of the tuition hike."

Kiley Rummler, 22, and Leigh Kelsey O'Donnell, 18, were drawn to the rally by Obama, but said they were open-minded to Corzine.

"We don't really know anything about Corzine but we wanted to see Obama," Rummler said.

"This is my first time voting," said O'Donnell. "I need to educate myself."

Contact Cynthia Burton at 856-779-3858 or cburton@phillynews.com.