Saturday, September 10, 2005

Kerry bashes Bush at Corzine rally

Kerry bashes Bush at Corzine rally

Sunday, September 11, 2005
Star-Ledger Staff

Saying it bordered on “criminal negligence,” U.S. Sen. John Kerry blasted the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina yesterday and urged New Jersey voters to express their own dissatisfaction by electing Democrat Jon Corzine governor.

Kerry made his remarks during a boisterous campaign rally for Corzine at a union hall in Paramus, part of a seven-stop tour of the state by the former presidential nominee to boost Democrats in the November elections.

The Massachusetts senator, who outpolled Bush by 7 percentage points in New Jersey in his failed 2004 presidential campaign, said a Corzine victory would be a rejection of Bush’s handling of issues ranging from Katrina to the war in Iraq. He said the federal response to the hurricane would have been “profoundly” better under him.

“Make them hear what America needs to hear,” Kerry said to loud applause from hundreds of union workers as Corzine stood by his side.

“This is not just a race for New Jersey. People all across the country are going to read the tea leaves. People all across the country are going to listen to your voices as you express them when you go to the polls,” he said. “This is a time for our country to touch its soul again, and you can do that at the ballot box.”

Kerry’s visit came as a new Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll showed the president’s job-approval rating has plummeted to an all-time low among New Jersey voters, with just 35 percent approving of his performance. In addition, only one in five surveyed said they are “very confident” the federal government could respond effectively should disaster strike here.

The senator’s visit marked the most high-profile and pointed effort yet in the New Jersey Democrats’ strategy of linking Corzine’s rival, Republican Doug Forrester, to national Republicans. New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states in the nation with governor’s races this year.

Sherry Sylvester, Forrester’s communications director, criticized Corzine for campaigning with a “big taxer” like Kerry. She said Bush’s low ratings in New Jersey would not hurt Forrester, who spent yesterday campaigning at street fairs and block parties in South Jersey.

“Doug is an independent voice who has been quite outspoken about the issues he agrees with the president on and the issues he disagrees with the president on,” she said. “This election is about property taxes and reform. … It’s not about President Bush or John Kerry.”

Asked if Forrester wanted Bush to campaign for him, Sylvester said, “Republicans from across the country are welcome” to stump for the GOP nominee.

Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, the president’s chief political strategist, have joined Forrester at fundraisers for state Republicans this year. Laura Bush was scheduled for another event this week, but the White House postponed that event because the first lady is devoting her efforts to raising money for hurricane victims.

Corzine told reporters it was fair to link Bush to Forrester, who raised $100,000 to help re-elect the president and used Bush’s image in his campaign literature during the GOP primary for governor.

“The philosophical view that my opponent takes with respect to a lot of issues is absolutely consistent with the Bush philosophy,” Corzine said.

Kerry, who has not ruled out another run for the presidency, said his visit to New Jersey had nothing to do with laying groundwork for a 2008 campaign and was instead an effort to help “strengthen the Democratic party.” His schedule yesterday also included events in Morristown and Edison, and two fundraisers for New Jersey Democrats at the Jersey Shore.

“I’ve thought about whether or not it might be possible,” he said of running for president again, “but it’s way too early to be caught up in or even serious about that now.”


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