Corzine ready to support Obama

July 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
After months of earnest campaigning on behalf of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gov. Jon S. Corzine now says he'll do whatever it takes to help Barack Obama get elected president.

The former chairman of Goldman Sachs recently met with Obama in Chicago for an economic summit. And, the governor spoke out on national economic issues twice recently at the Obama campaign's behest: He came out against oil drilling off the Jersey coast and called for increased oversight of oil commodity trading, saying speculators could be driving up prices beyond reasonable rates.

"My primary responsibility is to make sure that New Jersey's 15 electoral votes are in the Obama column," Corzine told The Associated Press. "And to make sure we do everything to organize, to get his message out in New Jersey, and be successful here."

Corzine said he could be called on for more economic policy advice, or to help raise money for the Illinois senator, or to hit the road and campaign out-of-state on Obama's behalf.

Whatever Obama's campaign needs, Corzine said he's eager to provide.

"Whatever they ask us to do that doesn't crowd out doing what my primary responsibility is - being governor - I will do to make sure we have Senator Obama in the White House," Corzine said.

Before it was evident that the Democratic presidential nomination would become an epic battle between Clinton and Obama, Corzine endorsed the New York senator, then began a series of increasingly energetic steps to help her win:

- He endorsed Clinton in April 2007, deeming her the most qualified candidate to be president and praising her stances on children's and health care issues.

- He campaigned for her in several states and advocated for her on several national television programs.

- He consistently urged the party to count the Florida primary and in March promised to help raise money to fund a new Michigan primary, though a new Michigan vote was never held.

- He remained loyal to Clinton until she officially abandoned her quest for the nomination and threw her support behind Obama.

Clinton beat Obama in the New Jersey Democratic primary by 10 points. Recent polls show Obama leads McCain in the Garden State by a comfortable margin.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Jersey by a 5-to-3 margin, but unaffiliated voters account for nearly half of those registered. The state hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate in the general election since 1988.

A Fairleigh Dickinson-PublicMind poll released June 26 showed Obama with 49 percent to McCain's 33 percent. A Quinnipiac University poll last month showed Obama with a 6-point lead.

Peter Woolley, a political scientist a Fairleigh Dickinson University, said the Obama campaign will benefit from having Corzine, the highest ranking Democrat in the state, in their corner.

"Corzine is one of the Democratic Party's best fundraisers," Woolley said. "A lot of the people he can tap for fundraising have maximized their donations to the Clinton campaign, so there is a lot more money to be mined for the Obama campaign."

Corzine can also heal any intraparty rifts that were created during the Clinton-Obama battle, he said.

Corzine said the Bush administration's policies have had such a negative effect on the state and the country that it would be irresponsible for the governor not to push Obama's Democratic agenda.

"The difference in Sen. McCain's positions and Sen. Obama's for the people of the state of New Jersey are dramatically different," he said.

While Corzine was actively campaigning for Clinton, he underwent continued speculation that he was auditioning for a job if she won, perhaps that of Treasury secretary or chairman of the Federal Reserve.

He denied the rumors then, and he denies them now.

"I like this job," he said. "I'm going to fight to keep it."


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