HACKENSACK, N.J. - President Obama called Gov. Corzine a "partner" and the kind of leader New Jersey needs during difficult times, touting the incumbent Democrat's values yesterday at a rally intended to help him win a tight reelection fight.
"Jon Corzine was one of the best colleagues I had in the Senate, and he is one of the best partners I have in the White House," Obama told a roaring crowd at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Rothman Center.
"You've had a leader who has fought for what matters most to the people of New Jersey," Obama said. "That's the kind of governor Jon Corzine's been. That's the kind of governor Jon Corzine will continue to be. That's why New Jersey needs to give Jon Corzine another four years."
Referring to the political challenge Corzine faces seeking reelection during a historic recession, Obama said New Jersey was not the only state hurting, and he blamed Republicans for creating the economic crisis behind so much of the pain that voters feel.
"Folks got a lot of nerve; they made the mess, and they're complaining about how fast we're cleaning it up," he said.
Corzine, standing nearby, smiled broadly throughout.
The rally was the third in a week of visits from top-shelf Democratic stars hoping to help Corzine over the finish line. With polls showing a virtual dead heat, Vice President Biden was in New Jersey Monday and former President Bill Clinton visited on Tuesday. Corzine was introduced yesterday by Caroline Kennedy.
Republican candidate Christopher J. Christie has, by contrast, spent the week meeting voters in small settings to discuss property taxes, which polls consistently rank as the top issue in the state. Yesterday's stops included a gathering in Hackensack, where Obama and Corzine rallied.
The city is the seat of Bergen County, the most populous county in the state and home to roughly one in 10 of its registered voters. The results there are considered crucial to any candidate hoping to win statewide.
Republican State Chairman Jay Webber said, "Corzine can't hide his record behind President Obama.
"New Jerseyans don't care about Gov. Corzine's steady diet of photo-ops. They know what this governor has done to them, and they won't buy the failed policies and higher taxes he's guaranteeing in a second term," said Webber, a state assemblyman from Morris County.
Corzine, who has been deeply unpopular in polls, has sought throughout the campaign to link himself and his administration to Obama. Aides at yesterday's event wore black T-shirts reading "Yes We Can 2.0," reprising the slogan that Obama rode to the White House.
"About a year ago, New Jersey went to the polls like everybody in America and said, 'Yes we can' . . . . Above all, we said yes to a governing philosophy that says we're all in this together" and rejected Republican philosophies, Corzine said.
At times, he downplayed his own role in the race.
"I'll get out of here pretty fast, because I know who you came to see," he said as he took the stage. Later, he said the election isn't about "Jon Corzine, it isn't about Christopher J. Christie," but about values, saying he would protect health coverage and education while his Republican challenger would offer tax breaks for the wealthy.
The several thousand Democratic supporters waved blue or pink Corzine placards. On stage with Obama and Corzine were dozens of women; the governor's campaign has particularly targeted women.
Christie has also tried to use some of the same themes that worked for Obama, casting himself as the "change" candidate in a state where taxes are too high.
This was Obama's second visit to pump up Corzine supporters. A July rally with the president led to a television ad for Corzine, and Obama-Corzine billboards popped up in urban areas around the state, including Camden and on one of the roads leading to the event yesterday.
Corzine urged supporters in the homestretch of the campaign to get to the polls.
"Over the next 13 days, I ask you to stand strong with me," he said. "You do that, and I'll stand strong with you over the next four years."