- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 1, 2009

CAMDEN, N.J. — In a final campaign swing on behalf of the only governor seeking re-election this fall, President Obama on Sunday pitched Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s bid as a key component for the White House to make good on its political promises.

“He’s one of the best partners I have in the White House. We work together,” Mr. Obama said. “We know our work is far from over.”

An energized president told 3,500 people at a rally in Camden that they need to work hard to give Mr. Corzine another term in office so he can work with Washington to help repair a brittle economy. A Corzine loss would be seen as a political embarrassment for the White House.

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Mr. Obama tagged Republican leadership and lax regulations for the economic crisis and dismissed GOP candidate Chris Christie’s criticism of Mr. Corzine.

“He understands that we can do better. And for the past four years, you’ve had an honorable man at the helm of this state,” the president said. “It wasn’t a consequence of Obama policies or Corzine policies that we went into this hole. There seems to be some selective memory going on here.”

Mr. Obama’s team already is looking ahead to next year’s election, describing Tuesday’s races as a barometer his Republican opponents would cite in 2010, when 37 governorships are up for grabs and more than a third of the Senate is on the ballot as well as every member of the House. On Wednesday, he heads to Wisconsin, which will elect a governor next year.

“We are two days away from making sure that New Jersey has the kind of qualified leadership that it deserves,” Mr. Obama told a raucous crowd. “We are two days away from re-electing Jon Corzine to another four years.”

Mr. Corzine, entering the final push of his close re-election bid, wrapped himself in Mr. Obama’s brand, calling him “our friend, our partner.” Citing Mr. Obama’s win a year ago, he said a victory on Tuesday would help him support the White House’s agenda.

“I’m here to ask you a simple question: Are you ready to keep it going?” Mr. Corzine said. “Today I am standing with President Obama. That tells you everything you need to know.”

The race also might provide a much-needed win for Mr. Obama and his Democrats, who trail in the nation’s only other governor’s race. Virginia appears to be heading in favor of Republican Bob McDonnell. White House aides are bracing for Democrat R. Creigh Deeds’ loss and already are girding for criticism that Mr. Obama didn’t do enough to help what they describe as a flawed candidate.

The White House has sought to downplay the races as routine.

“Quite honestly, whatever the results are, I don’t think they portend a lot in dealing with the future,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Friday.

Even so, by sundown Sunday, Mr. Obama will have attended five events for Mr. Corzine’s bid amid a schedule that has returned to campaign mode in hopes of steadying Democrats’ fortunes. They want to avoid having the Virginia race seen as a test of Mr. Obama, the party standard-bearer who was elected in an electoral landslide just a year ago and who has campaigned for Mr. Deeds.

Instead, the White House chose New Jersey as the final destination for Mr. Obama’s political travel this cycle. It borders presidential must-win Pennsylvania — Air Force One landed in Philadelphia to deliver Obama here.

Obama aides are realistic about Mr. Deeds’ seemingly slim chances in a state Mr. Obama won last November. That hard-fought victory was especially prized since Virginia had been reliably Republican in national races.

While most voters in Virginia and New Jersey say their like or dislike of Mr. Obama isn’t what will drive their decision, Mr. Obama’s team knows the power of the president’s brand. They also point to the economy as having an effect now and as certainly coloring 2010.

Sunday’s swing was a continuation of the quick day trips that aides say Mr. Obama enjoys, in part because they are a reminder of the two-year campaign that upset the political landscape and gave him an electoral landslide.

Mr. Obama already has made quick trips to Massachusetts — where friend Deval Patrick is seeking another term next year as the Bay State’s governor — and to help Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd win in 2010. He also has raised money for Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvanian who left the GOP in favor of the Democratic Party earlier this year.

And Mr. Obama has raised campaign cash in Miami, New York and Chicago.

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