By Jonathan Tamari / Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- President Obama has jumped into the final days of New Jersey's Senate race to urge voters to support Democrat Cory Booker to help break the political strife consuming the capital.
"Cory Booker has spent his entire life bringing people of different perspectives together," Obama says in a video released Monday by the Booker campaign. "Take it from me, now more than ever before, that’s the kind of leader we need in the Senate."
New Jersey "has the opportunity to send a message to the entire country about what kind of leadership we expect from our representatives in Congress," Obama says to the camera, echoing themes Booker has pushed throughout his campaign.
Obama had previously endorsed Booker, but had not made any public appearances on the Newark mayor's behalf. Vice President Joe Biden had a scheduled campaign stop last week but it was canceled due to the shutdown. The race has proven tighter than expected, with the latest public opinion poll showing Republican Steve Lonegan within 10 points of Booker.
Booker has seized on the shutdown as a tangible example of why he argues he is a better choice than Lonegan, a proud tea-party firebrand who has cheered on the shutdown and urged Republicans "not to capitulate" in the fight against Obama's health law.
Lonegan had his own star backer in state Saturday, when he and Sarah Palin headlined a Tea Party Express rally in New Egypt, Ocean County. His campaign posted its own video of Palin's speech urging supporters to vote for Lonegan.
"Something big is happening here ... it's called momentum!" Palin told a crowd waving "Don't Tread On Me" flags.
The odd election day - Wednesday, Oct. 16 - has made voter turnout a critical question, particularly for Booker, who would normally expect an advantage given that New Jersey has 732,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Obama concludes his video by urging voters to make a plan to vote.
"Vote for Cory on Wednesday – that’s right, Wednesday - Oct. 16," Obama concludes.