- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. | Gov. Jon Corzine’s list of special guest stars at campaign rallies and fundraisers this week reads like a “Who’s Who” of the Democratic Party: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Caroline Kennedy.

The campaign is drawing star power because it can - and perhaps because it needs it.

Polls over the past few weeks have shown Mr. Corzine, once trailing Republican former State Attorney Chris Christie by more than 10 points, running about even.

While that represents progress, it’s still not the rosiest picture for the former Wall Street CEO.

The governor doesn’t appear to be pulling support away from Mr. Christie; instead, independent Chris Daggett has improved his numbers and is now polling more than 10 percent. The same polls have shown at least one-fourth of registered Democrats aren’t planning to vote for the incumbent, a number that has shrunk but remains high.

Rider University political scientist Ben Dworkin said the well-known national Democrats will bring a common message about a governor who’s approval rating is hovering around 40 percent: “Even if you don’t like Jon Corzine, you should vote on a partisan basis.”

New Jersey is more Democratic than Republican: The state has about 1.8 million registered Democrats, 1.1 million registered Republicans and 2.4 million unaffiliated voters. Among those Democrats, Mr. Obama remains very popular, with an approval rating of about 80 percent.

Democrats are hoping the celebrity campaigners can win over those who are happy with Mr. Obama but unsure of Mr. Corzine - and to remind the party’s die-hards to vote.

Mr. Corzine has already appeared withMr. Biden twice and once each with Mr. Obama, rock star Jon Bon Jovi and former Vice President Al Gore. The rally with Mr. Obama was ready-made for a Corzine TV ad, which it was.

New Jersey is a populous state with a tight race, but it has been able to land big names partly because there aren’t many other consequential races in the nation this year.

The only other state electing a governor is Virginia. Mr. Obama, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore have all campaigned there or are scheduled to do so. Both elections will probably turn on state issues, but pundits and analysts won’t say as much after the election, Mr. Dworkin said.

“Many of those kind of folks are going to look at the New Jersey and Virginia elections and see it as some kind of premonition of how the 2010 midterm elections are going to go,” he said.

He said that’s why arms of both party organizations are running ads.

New Jersey Republicans are making light of the celebrity visits and playing up how Mr. Christie is continuing his kitchen-table meetings with state residents who say the economy is hurting them.

State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, the chairman of Mr. Christie’s campaign, said Mr. Corzine, who will certainly get lots of media attention from the guest stars, is trying to create a distraction from the real issues. “You’ve got a high-rise-living, Hamptons-going governor hanging out with presidents,” he said.

And last week, Mr. Christie said it’s not as if the visitors are on the ballot. “If they re-elect Jon Corzine, it’s not like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton’s going to move into the statehouse and help run things,” he said. “They’re going to be stuck with Jon Corzine.”

Mr. Christie has also gotten some help from outside, though the names aren’t as big as some of those supporting his Democratic rival: Before the primary, former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned with him; on Monday, former New York MayorRudolph W. Giuliani was doing radio interviews for Mr. Christie, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was to attend a fundraiser.

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