In the middle of making a hard push for health care reform before the August recess, President Obama is taking a time out to drum up support for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine in his race for re-election, where the Democratic incumbent has been consistently trailing his Republican opponent.
The latest Quinnipiac University poll this week showed challenger Chris Christie pulling away, with a 53-41 percent lead over Corzine -- up from a 10-point lead in last month's survey.
While the president is devoting most of his time to keeping comprehensive health care legislation alive on Capitol Hill, Corzine's flagging candidacy apparently could not be ignored.
Obama attended a Corzine fundraiser Thursday afternoon, to be followed by a rally at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. And not a moment too soon for the governor.
The Quinnipiac poll showed 60 percent of registered Jersey voters disapprove of the job Corzine is doing -- his lowest rating ever.
Corzine recently signed a $29 billion budget that increased taxes and cut tax rebates, and New Jersey political insiders say that has many voters wanting to vote for change this fall.
"Governor Corzine is in serious trouble in New Jersey at this point. He has about one-third of Democrats defecting from him," said Cliff Zukin, director of the public policy program at Rutgers University. "He's really gone through four years and people have said they wouldn't want to have another four years."
But can the campaigner-in-chief turn the tide? While Obama is popular in the Garden State with a 60 percent approval rating, recent surveys suggest his popularity may have little impact on the governor's race.
According to a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll released Thursday, 76 percent of New Jersey voters said their vote in the governor's race will be based solely on state and local issues. And 70 percent in the Monmouth University poll said having Obama actively campaign for Corzine would have no impact on their vote in the race.
The way the Obama rally has been handled has also left New Jersey political analysts scratching their heads.
The event was originally scheduled to be held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, and 52,000 people signed up online to attend. But the rally was then moved to the 18,000-seat PNC Arts Center -- the Corzine campaign is promising sidelined supporters there will be other opportunities to "partake in an event with the president, the first lady and others in the Obama administration and the governor as we move forward."
Obama is set to address the rally at 4:25 p.m ET. After his stops in New Jersey, Obama will cross the Hudson River to speak at the 100th NAACP Convention Dinner in New York City, and then attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.