ELIZABETH, N.J. - Although her presidential fund-raising efforts have been record-setting, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.) yesterday backed public funding for federal candidates.
"I believe that we have to move, eventually in our country, toward a system of public financing that really works for candidates running for federal office. I will support that as president," Clinton said after being asked about fund-raising during a campaign stop here, where she was endorsed by Gov. Corzine.
"Obviously, now I am competing as hard as I can to raise the money that I need to run what will be, in effect, two national campaigns," Clinton said, adding that the party nominations will likely be determined Feb. 5 when New Jersey and "half or more of the states" have primaries.
"And that is a very expensive undertaking. To work in all these states, to organize them, to reach and out organize them," she said.
Corzine on Sunday signed a law moving the state's primary from June to Feb. 5, joining California and others with early primaries.
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, on Sunday reported raising $26 million between Jan. 1 and March 31, topping the first-quarter record for either party set by Democrat Al Gore, with $8.9 million in 1999.
Her leading opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, has yet to release his total, but Clinton was asked about the belief that her fellow senator had raised a large amount.
"There is an enormous energy in our country to elect a Democratic president," she said. "I'm thrilled, because the more we get out a Democratic message in the primary, the easier it will be for me to actually win the general election."
Corzine, who served in the Senate with Clinton, was joined by two Democratic House members from New Jersey, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Robert Andrews, and some leaders from the state Legislature, on the steps of Elizabeth City Hall to announce their support of Clinton.
"I'm proud to say that if George Bush hasn't brought us out of Iraq, she will," Corzine said.
Clinton told the crowd of about 400 that if elected, she would pursue universal health care and energy independence.
"We cannot be dependent on unstable areas of the world and then they take our money and use it against us," she said of the United States' reliance on foreign oil.
"I'm running for president because I want to get back to setting goals for our country," Clinton said in her first campaign appearance in New Jersey, a Democratic-leaning state that twice gave its electoral votes to her husband, Bill Clinton, in his successful presidential bids.
More recently, a majority of state voters backed the failed runs of Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry.
A Qunnipiac University poll in February had Clinton with 41 percent of the vote in a New Jersey Democratic Party primary, compared with 19 percent for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
However, both would lose in a matchup with the former Republican mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani. The poll found Giuliani would defeat Clinton 50 percent to 41 percent, and Obama, 50-39.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,302 New Jersey voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
Clinton attracted an enthusiastic audience, many of whom pressed against metal barriers after her speech as she signed autographs and posed for pictures.
But not all said she had won their vote.
Kermit Medley, 61, of Elizabeth, a retired postal worker, said that although he likes Clinton, he was still deciding between her and Obama.
"I like her because she was the president's wife," he said.