Obama campaign gets organized in New Jersey

New Jersey may look like deep Hillary Clinton territory, but the Barack Obama campaign says it’s starting to lay groundwork here.

National Campaign Manager David Plouffe and newly named New Jersey State Director Mark Alexander held a conference call today to announce the creation of a campaign office in West Orange, which will open next week, and the transfer and hiring of new staff.

Although some Democrats thought that Obama’s decision not to show up to last months Democratic State Convention last month indicated that he was writing the state off, his campaign reminded reporters that he will attend a large, low-dollar fundraising event in Newark on Monday with Mayor Cory Booker. The event, called “The Countdown for Change,” will be held in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where general admission will be $25 for adults and $15 for students.

Obama, his staff said, has been spending more time focusing on early primary states. Strong performances there, they said, will help him build momentum in Clinton-leaning states like New Jersey.

“We’re going to develop momentum out of Iowa and New Hampshire, marry that to the organization we build in New Jersey and we’ll be highly competitive in the state,” said Alexander.

Obama is closer to Clinton in Iowa than here in New Jersey. A De Moines Register poll from earlier this month put him at 22%, compared to John Edwards’s 23% and Clinton’s 29%. The gap is wider in New Hampshire, where a recent Marist College Institute for Public Opinonn poll showed Obama trailing Clinton by 21%. A recent Quinnipiac poll of New Jersey voters has Obama trailing Clinton by 31%.

But Alexander said that he’s not convinced that the New Jersey polls are accurate given Clinton’s attention in the New York media market, which is shared by northern New Jersey. Also, Alexander said, New Jersey has its own election coming up in a few weeks.

“I think that skews it….I’m not saying we would be up in the poll, but I’m not sure a 30 point gap is an accurate indication of where things stand,” said Alexander.

Obama campaign gets organized in New Jersey