President Obama Sunday urged South Jersey voters to work hard Tuesday to re-elect fellow Democrat Jon Corzine and help the incumbent governor overcome a stiff challenge from Republican Christopher J. Christie.
Obama's star turn for Corzine, his second appearance for the governor in the past 10 days but first in South Jersey, came as the top candidates for governor continued a furious push to get their supporters energized in the final days of a down-to-the-wire race.
Speaking to a roaring crowd at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, Obama said giving Corzine another four years would help "continue the progress" he has made in Washington and encouraged Democrats to get their family and friends to the voting booth.
"I'm going to need you to do the same thing you did last year," Obama told an audience that organizers estimated at 6,500. "All of you are going to have to be ambassadors for change, all of you are going to have to be out there explaining that it's hard work, but if we turn out to vote on Tuesday and we put in someone who we know is on our side, then we can continue the progress that this extraordinary state has made."
His roughly 25 minute speech was interrupted several times by applause, and once by an "E-A-G-L-E-S" chant when he thanked those who had come to the rally instead of the Giants-Eagles game.
The Corzine campaign is counting on the president to help generate enthusiasm, particularly in urban areas where New Jersey Democrats traditionally rack up big margins. Standing high over Camden, for example, is a billboard showing Corzine and Obama and the words "Keep It Going," and Obama is scheduled to speak again in Newark later today. Corzine tied himself and his agenda to Obama Sunday, repeating "keep it going" over and over in his own speech.
Meanwhile, Christie was scheduled to continue his bus tour through the state, stopping at diners and rallies to encourage his backers. As Corzine has brought in Democratic stars, Christie has said that voters know that it is Corzine, not Obama, who is on the ballot. The Democratic luminaries backing Corzine, he has said, will head back to Washington, not Trenton, when the rallies end.
Independent Chris Daggett was planning stops at sports bars and at the tailgating outside the New York Jets game in the Meadowlands. He is trying to convince voters he can win, although a new poll showed his support slipping from earlier highs.
The importance of motivating supporters was reinforced by the poll, released Sunday morning, that showed a virtual dead heat between Christie and Corzine. The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey survey had Christie with 43 percent of likely voters' support compared to 42 percent for Corzine and 8 percent for Daggett.
Corzine, saddled with a national recession, remains widely unpopular in public opinion polls, leaving him in a tight race despite Democrats' historic advantage in New Jersey.
Obama has lent his prestige to the campaign in an effort to prevent a loss in a typically Blue state. Many pundits and political operatives, including Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, have attempted to cast Tuesday's gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia as referenda on Obama.
"This election will be defined by turnout like few others before it," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "Many Democrats are sitting on the sidelines and not considered to be likely voters at this point. They may be unenthusiastic about their governor, but can they be prodded to the polls for other reasons? If not, Christie may eke out the win."
Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 609-989-9016 or email@example.com.