Corzine urges Democratic unity

August 25, 2008 3:51:56 PM PDT
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said Monday that Democrats are united behind presidential candidate Barack Obama, as he dismissed reports of a lasting rift between Obama supporters and those who, like him, originally wanted Hillary Clinton to win the party's nomination. Corzine spoke to New Jersey's delegation in Denver Monday morning as part of an ongoing push to get a Democrat elected to the White House in November.

"It's very clear where I stood on the primary and I worked very hard for Hillary's nomination. That process is over," Corzine said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Denver. "It is time for us to understand the most important thing is to change the policies that are undermining the economic well-being of New Jerseyans."

Corzine is one of hundreds New Jerseyans in Denver for the four-day Democratic National Convention that runs through Thursday, when Obama is scheduled to formally accept the party's nomination for president. The governor is one of New Jersey's 20 super delegates, those who are not pledged to a candidate.

New Jersey has 107 regular state delegates, 20 super delegates and 18 alternates. The state's entire contingent numbers 750, or about 350 more than four years ago.

"It's a byproduct of the enthusiasm for this year's election," State Democratic Committee spokesman Richard McGrath said of the exceptional number of New Jersey Democrats in Denver. McGrath noted that 500,000 newly registered Democrats voted in New Jersey's February presidential primary.

Corzine, who has become an informal economic adviser to Obama in recent weeks, echoed the Illinois senator's call for a change in direction for the country.

"Everybody understands we have an obligation to the American people; we need a change in direction," he said, noting the new deployment of 3,000 National Guard troops from New Jersey to Iraq, many serving their second or third tours.

Corzine dismissed reports of a non-unified party, calling it largely a contrivance of Republican strategists.

"It doesn't reflect the underlying feelings of the vast, vast majority of Democrats across the country," he said.

No New Jersey politician has a prominent speaking role at the convention. Those slots were being reserved for Democrats from the 18 states considered battlegrounds, Corzine said. New Jersey's delegation is seated near California and New York, just behind the 18 battleground states, he said.

Asked about his endorsement of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden days before he was chosen as Obama's running mate, Corzine said he had no insider information.

"Complete intuitive sense," said Corzine. "His skill set, his personality, his abilities fit the bill. I'm pleased to see it happen. It's really terrific for New Jersey," he said, pointing out Biden's unique understanding of problems affecting East Coast states and southern New Jersey in particular.

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