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« NH Sen Poll: Ayotte And Hodes Neck-And-Neck | Blog Home Page | Strategy Memo: Health Care, Health Care, Health Care »

Stumping For Corzine, Obama Also Sells Health Care

In his first official campaign event since his own election, President Obama urged New Jerseyans to return Jon Corzine to the governor's office this fall, calling him "a leader who's been called to govern in some extraordinary times." But Obama spent as much, if not more time at the event pushing his own agenda, especially health care.

"We have talked and talked and talked about fixing health care for decades. And we have finally reached a point where inaction is no longer an option -- where the choice to defer reform is nothing more than a decision to defend the status quo," he told tens of thousands at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. "I will not defend the status quo."

He conceded the effort is not easy, and his fiery speech reflected increasing skepticism that a deal can be reached on the timetable he originally sought.

"You're going to hear the same scare tactics from special interest groups that have been used to kill health care reform for decades," he said. "You're going to hear a lot of nonsense." So he tried to sell his plan to an audience he conceded might already be "satisfied with their health care right now." To critics, he said people need to ask what their plan is.

Corzine wasn't entirely overshadowed, standing behind the president throughout the speech and applauding throughout. Obama rattled off a number of accomplishments, saying he "has provided more property tax relief than any other governor in New Jersey history," and was "the first governor in 60 years who has reduced the size of government," among other things. But he acknowledged what's at the root of Corzine's challenge: a faltering economy.

"He's been tested by the worst recession in half a century -- a recession that was caused by years of recklessness and irresponsibility and a do-nothing attitude," Obama said. "It was caused by the same small thinking that has plagued our politics for decades -- the kind of thinking that says we can afford to just tinker around with our problems, we can put off the tough decisions, defer the big challenges. We can just tell people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear."

Corzine's re-election strategy relies in part on him convincing voters in the increasingly Democratic state to again vote against the Republican, and Obama's rhetoric amplified that. But polls show that not only are voters more concerned with state issues, but that even presidential support won't tip the scales.

Obama also helped raise $1 million for Garden State Democrats earlier. Tonight, he'll raise money for the DNC after speaking at the NAACP Convention.