Image: GOP candidate Chris Christie
Mel Evans  /  AP
Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie addresses a gathering at a campaign stop on Monday in Tinton Falls, N.J. Christie will face Gov. Jon S. Corzine and independent candidate Chris Daggett in Tuesday's election.
updated 11/2/2009 8:53:27 PM ET 2009-11-03T01:53:27

New Jersey's candidates for governor darted through the state on the last day of a campaign being billed as a vote on President Barack Obama's popularity.

Obama has made five appearances in New Jersey to make his case for Jon Corzine, the only Democratic governor seeking re-election, who is facing a tough challenge from Republican Chris Christie, a former prosecutor.

Republicans have not won statewide in New Jersey in a dozen years. Polls show the race a tossup heading into Tuesday, and a victory would sting the president in a state he carried by 15 percentage points a year ago.

Third-party candidate Chris Daggett, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, could influence the outcome.

Battleground counties
Corzine and Christie divided their packed schedules Monday between battleground counties they see as must-wins, and counties they're likely to carry but need big pluralities to win overall.

They and Daggett all planned stops in Bergen, the state's most populous county, with 530,000 registered voters, nearly half unaffiliated with either major party.

The race will come down to whether Democrats can mobilize a significant turnout, particularly in cities, and whether voters who say they support Daggett stick with the independent despite his long odds, said Joseph Marbach, dean of Seton Hall University's College of Arts and Sciences in South Orange.

Obama urged 11,000 cheering supporters Sunday to give Corzine the same level of commitment given him.

"We will not lose this election if all of you are as committed as you were last year," Obama said at a rally in Newark, the second of two appearances on Corzine's behalf Sunday. "If you will let your voices shine through, you will not only re-elect Jon Corzine, you will put New Jersey on a path for success for another four years."

Change for N.J.?
Christie has also sought to tap into Obama's support, suggesting that he is the candidate who will bring change to New Jersey. One Christie television ad features multicultural voters who say they voted for Obama and now support Christie.

Corzine beat his Republican opponent by 239,000 votes in 2005 but has since been hobbled by the economic recession. Unemployment is at 9.8 percent, and property taxes remain stubbornly high — averaging $7,045 per household. Corzine was unable to deliver the tax relief he promised four years ago.

Christie, meanwhile, has been criticized for being too vague about how he would solve the state's nagging financial problems.

The only other governor's race this year, in Virginia, appears to be headed for a Republican victory.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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