Democrats willing to let faithful see Obama, even if it takes away from GOTV effort
By Max Pizarro | October 26th, 2009 - 3:00pm
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Democrats are willing to give campaign workers a few hours off on Sunday so they can attend one of two campaign rallies featuring President Obama, even though it means taking bodies away from phone banks and door knocking two days before Election Day in a race that most pollsters say is too close to call.

Obama will speak at rallies for Gov. Jon Corzine's re-election campaign at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden and the Prudential Center in Newark.

Whatever Democrats may lose for a few hours in the way of mechanical operations will more than be made up for in getting energized by close proximity to the President, say some Corzine supporters.

"You can't help but getting excited," said Michele Jaker, executive director of the Planned Parenthood of New Jersey Action Committee. "I'm a hardened vet, yet there I was yelling screaming at the last Obama rally. If I get excited, our college students and volunteers will certainly get excited. They will be that much more energized for Monday and Tuesday. I know twenty people off the top of my head that are planning to go."

Charlie Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey AFL-CIO, said his organization is so big and so operationally sound, that Obama's presence here won't change the GOTV flow for Corzine.

"Obviously our labor campaign is in full force final week, and will continue to be through Election Day," Wowkanech said. "We're working every day and every night this week, and we will have people there to see President Obama, as well as ample volunteers on Saturday and Sunday. We have a million members in the labor movement here. The Prudential Center only holds 17,000 people. We'll have people inside, and plenty more in the streets."

With Corzine at 64% approval among Democrats and Obama at 87%, according to a recent Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll, the upside in Obama inspiration is enough incentive for team Corzine to bring the president in for the second time in as many weeks as part of an effort to lift the Democratic incumbent past GOP challenger Christopher Christie and independent Christopher Daggett.

"Corzine has enough money to get bodies in the streets," said Patrick Murray, director of polling at Monmouth University. "Even if some of those people who might otherwise be phone-banking or campaigning (are in the Prudential Center or in the Susquehanna Center for a few hours on Sunday), at the end of the day, the Obama presence is going to inspire those people knocking on doors and making phone calls and energize the core of support that's critical for GOTV on Monday and Tuesday. If they can't get excited about Jon Corzine, Democrats will get excited about Barack Obama."

Former Morris County Prosecutor Michael Murphy describes as "life-changing" the sight of then-President John F. Kennedy campaigning in 1961 for his father, Richard J. Hughes, who would go on that year to win the governor's race.

"After eight years of Democratic Gov. Robert Meyner, Hughes was not expected to win," said Murphy. "The Republican candidate for governor, Jim Mitchell, had served as labor secretary for Dwight Eisenhower for eight years. In a labor-Catholic state, Kennedy coming in for a midnight rally at the War Memorial in late October for Dad was the game-changer."

Murphy, who ran for governor in 1997, says that there are enough Democrats to fill the two arenas and handle the GOTV effort.

"If (Essex County Democratic Chairman) Phil Thigpen is going to get a good turnout, he doesn't need to take people making $70 a day to knock on doors and phone-bank off the streets," Murphy added. "He can tell them to keep working while other troops get energized with something they will never forget."

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