Obama enters fray in governors’ races

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When New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine announced that President Obama would headline his re-election rally, more than 52,000 people signed up, forcing the governor to move it to a bigger location and issue Obama fans IOUs.

Corzine aides called the enthusiastic and quick response to the upcoming rally “absolutely outstanding” and promised that those turned away would have first dibs when first lady Michelle Obama and administration officials come before the November election - or if the president makes a return trip.

Democratic candidates across the country are similarly hoping to harness some of the Obama spark that drew record crowds before the presidential election, and Mr. Obama is in top demand as state parties push him to be campaigner in chief.

The Washington Times has learned that when Mr. Obama is in the Garden State on Thursday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will head south to Richmond for a fundraiser with state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate in Virginia.

Mr. Biden already has held a rally with Mr. Corzine, and Mr. Obama has promised to campaign for Mr. Deeds as well.

That’s an early preview of the long election season this year. Democrats are putting most of their efforts into the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey, where they hope their party will retain the seats.

Corzine campaign manager Maggie Moran said some of the 52,000 who signed up online to see Mr. Obama share the stage with the governor will get calls confirming they can attend the Thursday rally, moved from Rutgers University to the 18,000-seat PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J.

The people who are left out of the Corzine-Obama rally will be put on a “preferred reservation list” for the next event, Ms. Moran told supporters in a Web video.

“There will be many other opportunities for you to partake in an event with the president, the first lady and others in the Obama administration and the governor as we move forward,” she said, adding that those rejected for Thursday will get the “first chance” to attend the other events and encouraging volunteers to give time to the campaign.

Mr. Corzine could have trouble against Republican challenger Chris Christie.

The Republican Governors Association released a poll of 600 voters timed with the Obama visit showing Mr. Christie leading Mr. Corzine 47.8 percent to 33 percent. More than 19 percent were undecided in the Basswood Research poll, which also shows the Obama visit will not sway 71 percent of respondents.

Mike Schrimpf, communications director for the Republican Governors Association, dismissed the rallies as Mr. Corzine’s attempt to distract New Jersey voters and to link himself to Mr. Obama.

“Governors’ races are about state issues and how the incumbent has managed the state, [and] voters are smart enough to separate Barack Obama and Jon Corzine,” he said.

The Republican poll also showed nearly 79 percent of respondents view the governor and president separately.

Both the president and vice president have hosted fundraisers for Democrats, but Thursday will be Mr. Obama’s first campaign rally since he took office.

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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