New Jersey's Democratic Governor Jon Corzine is up for reelection next month and his campaign is in trouble. He currently polls tied or slightly behind Republican candidate Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney who has lost some of his support to third-party candidate Chris Daggett. President Obama today campaigns with Corzine, following recent campaign appearances by Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. Can Obama, who won the state in 2008 by a 15% margin, push Corzine over the top and keep the statehouse Democratic, or will he risk tarnishing the Obama political brand with a failed campaign?

  • Test for 'Obama Factor'  Tribune political analyst Mark Silva describes the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races as tests for Obama's ability to pull in votes. "The Obama factor. That will be one question on everyone's minds when the votes are counted Nov. 3 in Virginia and New Jersey, where Democrats are battling Republicans for governor's offices in the two big off-season test elections of the year."
  • Can Obama's 'Grassroots Machine' Deliver?  Time's Michael Scherer puts heavy pressure on Obama to deliver a win for Corzine. "The question is whether or not the Obama brand, which has been tarnished in recent months, is strong enough to brighten the hopes of the embattled governor," he writes. "New Jersey's outcome may not only be seen nationally as a referendum on Obama's first 10 months in office, but also as a test of how well the grassroots machine that Obama built up in 2008 can be mobilized in off years." Obama isn't alone. "Back in Washington, the Democratic National Committee is also stepping up its backing of Corzine, with roughly $3 million in aid, along with frequent e-mails to organize support from those on Obama's presidential campaign e-mail list."
  • Implications Beyond New Jersey  NBC News' Domenico Montanaro lays out the stakes. "If Democrats do win in New Jersey, as well as in the special congressional election in NY-23, there will be two storylines to consider the day after: 1) third-party candidates -- Daggett in NJ and Doug Hoffman in NY-23 -- will have helped the Democrats and hurt the Republicans, and 2) that Republicans once again will have struck out in the Northeast. If Republicans lose NY-23, they will control just TWO of the state’s 29 congressional districts. Wow."
  • Why New Jersey Matters  Matt Bai, in a long profile of the race in the New York Times Magazine, explains the political meaning of November's outcome.
The larger impact of all this is hard to determine, which is why observers of the national political scene — starting with those in the White House — have taken an avid interest in New Jersey, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on and what, if anything, it might portend for the coming midterm Congressional elections, not to mention the 37 other governors who will face the voters next year. Theories abound as to which factor is to blame for the tenuousness of Corzine’s hold on power in a state that has tilted so strongly Democratic in the last few elections. Some, including Corzine himself, say he is simply a victim of the legacy of the Bush years: financial collapse and mismanagement, yawning inequality and unemployment. Others blame Corzine’s arrogance and his obstinate demeanor, or they point to the Wall Street credentials that helped Corzine sweep into office four years ago but that now make him a convenient target of populist revolt. Republicans hope Corzine’s struggles signify the leading edge of a reaction against Obama and pro-government liberals, though if Corzine prevails, Democrats will inevitably portray his victory as a validation of the president’s continuing popularity. For those whose business is the forecasting of the next political moment, the operative question isn’t so much whether Corzine will ultimately win or lose the election, but what, exactly, his winning or losing might mean.