Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Corzine, Who Claimed Obama as Protégé in ’04, Will Endorse Clinton, Democrats Say"

NY Times:
TRENTON, March 30 — Gov. Jon S. Corzine plans to endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for president on Monday, according to Democrats close to both.
Mr. Corzine’s endorsement represents a significant coup for Mrs. Clinton. He would become the first sitting Democratic governor to endorse her over her two main rivals, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. And in the case of Mr. Obama, Mr. Corzine, a former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, would be spurning someone he has often taken credit for helping to discover and nurture during the 2004 campaign.

More important, though, Mr. Corzine’s endorsement may give Democrats angered by Mrs. Clinton’s original vote for a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq some political cover in supporting her.

Mr. Corzine voted against the resolution while in the United States Senate, and he has often cited Iraq as a crucial determinant in why he chose as his successor in the Senate Representative Robert Menendez, who also voted against the resolution, not Representative Robert E. Andrews, who voted for the resolution.

When asked about the endorsement, spokesmen for both Mr. Corzine and Mrs. Clinton declined to comment. “There is no announcement to make at this time,” said Anthony Coley, Mr. Corzine’s press secretary.

But several Democrats confirmed that the endorsement was in hand, and that the two would appear together at an event on Monday in Elizabeth. They will be joined by several New Jersey officials who are also supporting Mrs. Clinton, including Mr. Andrews and Representative Frank J. Pallone Jr.

Indeed, some Democrats said that they had been waiting for Mr. Corzine, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, to make his choice, in order to offer a more united front in a strong Democratic state rich with delegates and deep-pocketed donors. And Mr. Corzine is expected to sign into law on Sunday legislation that would push New Jersey’s presidential primary up to Feb. 5, potentially enhancing the state’s visibility.

“Ideologically, he may be on the same page as Edwards and Obama” as a liberal Democrat, said Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist who once worked as a spokeswoman for Mr. Corzine, and is not supporting any candidate. “But I think at the end of the day, he is an old bond trader, and he’s looking at who has the best odds of who’s going to win.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Obama declined to comment. But former Gov. Richard J. Codey, who has endorsed Mr. Edwards, said: “The governor explained to me that she was helpful to him, and he feels a kinship and friendship with her, and I understand that fully well. I just want a candidate who can win in November. I think she can, but I think Edwards has a greater possibility.”

That Mr. Corzine has sided with Mrs. Clinton is hardly a surprise. He has long been a major donor to the Democratic Party, and counts as one of his mentors Robert E. Rubin, another former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, who was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration.

Mr. Corzine also worked closely with Mrs. Clinton when they were in the Senate together on numerous New York-New Jersey issues, including the aftermath of 9/11.

But Mr. Corzine has also praised Mr. Obama as one of the most promising politicians in years. This was especially true last year, when Mr. Obama traveled to New Jersey three times to campaign for Mr. Menendez, and he drew large and ecstatic crowds.

But Mr. Corzine’s circle is not without other presidential candidates, including one of his closest friends when he was in the Senate, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who attended Mr. Corzine’s inauguration in January 2006. Also showing up in Trenton that day was another candidate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.

In December, Mr. Corzine expressed reservations about both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on WFAN’s “Imus in the Morning” program. He said that he was worried that she “would have a hard time getting elected” and that Senator Obama might not have the appropriate “breadth of perspective and managerial experience.”

About a month ago, speculation that Mr. Corzine would endorse Mrs. Clinton intensified after he appeared at a fund-raiser in New Brunswick with major Democratic donors, according to three Democrats who attended. That event featured Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who is now the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign committee.

The political significance of a New Jersey governor’s decision cannot be ignored, since the governor is the only elected state official. So when former Gov. James E. McGreevey endorsed Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic primary, just about every other New Jersey politician followed suit.

The most prominent New Jersey official who did not was Mr. Corzine, and he backed Senator John Kerry.

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