Obama Rallies for Gov. Corzine in N.J.; Dems Hope Win There Will Offset Expected Virginia Loss

For a Democrat, appeals to party loyalty make sense in New Jersey. The party enjoys a 700,000 voter registration edge over Republicans in the state, which has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Sen. Clifford Case won re-election in 1972.

However, the state has a track record of electing moderate Republican governors -- Tom Kean won twice, in 1981 and 1985, and Christie Todd Whitman won twice, in 1993 and 1997.

While Corzine is trying to make the election a referendum on Obama, Christie is trying to make it a referendum on the governor.

"This election is about New Jersey. And I think it's about me and Jon Corzine. I don't think it's about Barack Obama or Bill Clinton," Christie said recently.

New Jersey voters are notoriously grumpy, thanks to one of the highest property tax burdens in the nation, but the state's political landscape is especially toxic this year.

The recession has battered New Jersey, wrecking the state's already precarious finances.

Corzine infuriated voters by raising the sales tax, hiking highway tolls and slashing aid to municipalities. And he enraged the Democratic-leaning public employee unions by forcing workers to contribute toward certain benefits for the first time.

According to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released last week, 68 percent of likely voters say the state is on the wrong track, while only 21 percent say it's headed in the right direction. Just 37 percent approve of the job Corzine is doing; 52 percent disapprove, the poll found.

Corzine Ad Attacks Christie's Weight

"Nobody wants to be the governor when revenues evaporate," said Peter Woolley, director of the Polling Institute at Fairleigh Dickinson, which is in Hackensack, N.J. "I don't know whether Corzine has been knocked around by Christie, but he certainly has been knocked around just by being governor of New Jersey."

Still, Christie has tried, denigrating Corzine's fiscal stewardship while pledging to cut taxes and spending if elected.

"Liberal Jon Corzine. He's voted for higher taxes 133 times ... Incredible," one of Christie's ads intones.

Corzine has tried to make Christie an unpalatable choice to voters with a furious blitz of attack ads declaring the Republican too conservative and questioning his integrity.

Critics say one attack hit below the belt -- by attacking Christie's belt with a spot that displays an unflattering picture of the portly Christie, saying he "throws his weight around."

"At least man up and say I'm fat," Christie responded, in an interview on the Don Imus radio show.

Corrine has been able to out-duel Christie on the airwaves, by dipping into the fortune he earned on Wall Street, where he headed investment bank Goldman Sachs. He has shelled out $23.6 million in the election so far, most of it his own money, nearly three times the $8.8 million spent by Christie.

Corzine's campaign hasn't been able to raise his poll numbers as much as bring Christie's down.

"A lot of people don't like Corzine, but they don't see the alternative," Redlawsk said.

The attacks on Christie have driven some voters to Daggett, a former state environmental official who won a surprise endorsement from New Jersey's most influential newspaper, the Star-Ledger of Newark.

According to a poll by Quinnipiac University last week, Daggett is snatching approximately three votes from Christie for every two he's taking from Corzine -- enough, analysts say, to potentially tip the balance toward Corzine in a close race.

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