President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged New Jersey to keep Democrat Jon Corzine as governor, calling him an honorable man who puts the people's interests first.
"That's the kind of governor that Jon Corzine has been. That's the kind of governor that Jon Corzine will continue to be. That's why New Jersey needs to give Jon Corzine another four years," Obama told a cheering crowd of more than 3,000 in a gymnasium at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Making his second political trip of the week in support of a Democrat on the Nov. 3 ballot, Obama touted Corzine's record. The governor, he said, has provided more property tax relief to homeowners than any New Jersey governor and was the first chief executive in 60 years to make government smaller.
He said Corzine also expanded early childhood education and health insurance for children, all during one of the most difficult periods in the state's history.
Polls show Corzine, the only incumbent governor facing re-election in 13 days, now running about even with Republican Chris Christie, who had enjoyed double-digit leads.
‘One of the best partners I have’
Obama asked that Corzine, "one of the best partners I have in the White House," not be punished by being booted from office for telling the truth about the challenges ahead.
"I hope what you want is somebody who's going to be straight with you," Obama said at the rally, one reminiscent of his own events during last year's presidential campaign. The crowd chanted "Obama," "Obama," "Obama" as the president bounded onto the stage to greet Corzine and Caroline Kennedy.
"Ultimately the outcome of this race is not up to Jon. It's up to you," Obama said, urging people to vote on Nov. 3.
Introducing Obama, Corzine said he was proud to be the president's partner in building a better America and in building a better New Jersey.
"I ask you to stand strong with me. You do that, I'll stand strong with you for the next four years," Corzine said.
Obama, who remains popular among New Jersey Democrats, is in the midst of a blitz of political campaigning to help raise money and rally loyalists as the 2009 off-year election season draws to a close.
Democrats face the prospect of losing hard-fought gubernatorial races in Virginia and perhaps New Jersey, two contests that, to a degree, are shaping up as a test of Obama's political strength.
Obama took to the stump Monday night in New York City, helping raise as much as $3 million for the Democratic Party along with an unspecified sum for Bill Owens, the Democrat in a special congressional election in upstate New York. John McHugh, the Republican who had held the seat, stepped down to become Obama's Army secretary.
On Friday, the president heads to New England to attend fundraisers for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is up for re-election in 2010, and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who is facing a tough fight for re-election next year.
Next Tuesday, Obama is scheduled to stump in Norfolk, Va., for Democrat Creigh Deeds, who is trailing in the race for Virginia governor.
Obama's appearance Wednesday in support of Corzine was his second for the governor this year. It followed campaign visits to New Jersey this week by Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton.