Obama in last-ditch dash to stave off Democratic defeat

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Barack Obama made a third flying visit to New Jersey yesterday, putting his weight behind the re-election bid of the state's Democratic governor as well as trying to salvage something for the party in this week's round of elections.

With Republicans trying to portray the smattering of gubernatorial and congressional polls tomorrow as an early referendum on the Obama administration, the president was trying to push Jon Corzine, the incumbent New Jersey governor, over the finish line in what is currently a statistical dead heat. A parallel race in Virginia already appears lost to the Democrats, leaving Republicans salivating at the prospect of being able to land a blow on the president.

In New Jersey, the state of the economy and the public finances have dominated the race, and the president spent the weekend talking up the signs of recovery. In his weekly YouTube video he said an end to job losses was around the corner.

"As I've said many times, it took years to dig our way into the crisis we've faced," Mr Obama said. "It will take more than a few months to dig our way out. But make no mistake: that's exactly what we will do."

Governor Corzine's defeat tomorrow would be an embarrassment, but he has at least clawed his way back to even in the polls. A new survey out yesterday showed Corzine on 42 per cent, with his Republican opponent, Chris Christie, on 43 per cent.

Supporters began gathering in the rain in Camden, New Jersey, hours before the president was scheduled to appear with Governor Corzine. The pair also travelled to Newark for another last-minute rally. President Obama hopes that his appearances will energise some of the younger and minority voters who gave him a 16-point margin of victory over John McCain in the race for the White House 12 months ago.

Republicans fanned out across the weekend talkshows to condemn the Obama administration's first year as one of unfulfilled promises. House Republican leader John Boehner, citing an unemployment rate forecast to hit 9.9 per cent this week, said the president's economic stimulus programme had done nothing but increase the size of government.