Gov. Jon Corzine said Sen. Hillary Clinton's near double-digit victory over arch-rival Sen. Barack Obama in Pennsylvania last night lays the foundation for a successful conclusion to the Democratic Primary for his presidential candidate.
"You can't underestimate that Obama was looking for a knockout. He played to win and lost," Corzine told reporters in an afternoon conference call, which also included State Democratic Chairman Joseph Cryan.
An early supporter of Clinton’s, Corzine, who was on stage with his former senate colleague in Pennsylvania last night to celebrate her victory, said Clinton again showed her toughness and her smarts, particularly on economic issues, where polls give her a 60-40% edge over Obama.
The governor dismissed the suggestion that Clinton’s down the stretch television advertisement featuring an image of terrorist Osama Bin Laden was over-the-top fear mongering.
"The ad portrayed a series of issues, including gas lines, issues of war and peace and economic issues," said Corzine, who specifically denied that Clinton was emulating the kind of GOP attacks that demolished war veteran Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in his 2002 re-election bid.
The ad, said the governor, ultimately conveyed a sense of Clinton’s "judgement" to be president.
As for the President Harry Truman line culled for the ad, "If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," run by a candidate who cried on the trail in New Hampshire and complained about getting tough questions in a television debate, Corzine said, "I don't think anyone's going to argue Hillary Clinton isn't tough. There’s no question people can show their emotions."
Cryan said Clinton’s fight against the administration to protect the State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) program was evidence of where the candidate has made atough stand on behalf of values that reflect the Democratic Party.
Corzine said Clinton’s vote in favor of the war in Iraq, her yes vote on the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind, as well as her early support for the North American Free Trade Agreement – all of which she now rejects – shouldn’t diminish her effectiveness as a leader.
"I voted against the war,"said the governor, referring to the 2002 vote he cast as a U.S. senator against the war resolution. "But I can tell you it was a close judgement call."
Clinton, said Corzine, reacted strongly to the failures of the Bush administration by trying to administer the political efforts to bring the war to a close, and has been especially strong on economic issues.
"There’s no reason for her to take a back seat to anybody," Corzine said. "On the economy she has consistently stood against excessive tax cuts for those who are already doing well."
During the call, the governor also reiterated hisdesire to see Florida count in the Democratic Primary process.