As the volatile campaign heads into its final two weeks, Gov. Corzine is relying on President Obama and other top Democrats to close the deal for his reelection, while Republican Christopher J. Christie is visiting with taxpayers and planning to reboard his big, black campaign bus.
Independent Chris Daggett, who has polled at better than 10 percent and seen a recent uptick in fund-raising, is cutting a new TV ad this week and plans to begin radio ads as well.
At Middlesex Community College in Edison yesterday, Vice President Biden told about 1,200 attendees that reelecting Corzine would help the party stick to its "core values" of improving health care, the economy, and education.
Repeating his campaign themes, Corzine said he would continue to "fight for what is right" and protect children and senior citizens.
The vice president also opened Corzine's campaign in June and spoke earlier this month at a union convention in Atlantic City.
Obama, whose midsummer appearance was turned into a TV ad, is expected tomorrow in Hackensack; today, former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to appear in Collingswood and New Brunswick. Also tomorrow, Caroline Kennedy is set to stump for Corzine in Belmar, Monmouth County.
Christie's campaign said yesterday the star power was a distraction from the state's sorry fiscal state. The independent Office of Legislative Services estimates the state could have an $8 billion deficit to cope with next fiscal year, and last week's unemployment figures show the state at 9.8 percent - the highest in 33 years.
"This is 'save Jon Corzine from himself' week," said Mike Duhaime, a political consultant for Christie.
Christie's campaign chairman, Joseph Kyrillos, also a Monmouth County state senator, said the Corzine rallies were a "glamorous way of, I guess, diverting attention of New Jerseyans who intuitively understand that after these big rallies, after the big spotlights are turned off, the old Clinton economic team is going to be way gone. . . . And we're going to be left with Jon Corzine."
Christie yesterday began a reprise of his "kitchen-table" talks with voters, which he started in the primary.
"People are still almost exclusively concerned about taxes," he said after meeting with residents in East Brunswick. "New Jersey's going in the wrong direction. It's unaffordable. They're worried about whether their kids are going to be able to live here, and with seniors, they're worried whether they can afford to stay."
Christie plans to have meetings across the state with small groups before heading into a weekend of campaigning. Starting next Wednesday, he will reboard his campaign bus and swing through the state, hitting every county before Nov. 3.
Christie's campaign is running more TV advertising than in prior weeks. His campaign hit the maximum of $7.3 million in state matching funds for his campaign last week, while Daggett, also participating in the state financing program, continues to raise money.
Corzine is not participating in the state campaign-finance program, which limits spending, and has already spent an estimated $20 million of his personal fortune on the race.
Daggett, who has received about $2.5 million in state funds, is focusing his efforts on convincing voters that he can win.
Christie and the Republican Governors Association see him as a threat, and yesterday, Christie's campaign stepped up its criticism of Daggett as "the other Democrat" in the race. The RGA has been running ads attacking him.
Daggett said he believes he's doing better than independent polls say because the polls have a poor history of tracking independent voters. And, he said, on the campaign trail he routinely finds voters dissatisfied with both parties and ready for an independent.
"I hear it every day loudly and clearly from voters who are deeply disaffected by and disillusioned by the two-party system," he said. "I think there's something that hasn't been captured yet in this election."
The three major candidates are scheduled to appear at Newark's jazz radio station, WBGO-FM (88.3), for a debate at 8 p.m. Thursday, which will be simulcast on WHYY-FM (90.9).