1. George Washington, December 26, 1776.
George Washington crossed the Delaware into New Jersey and defeated the Hessians stationed in Trenton. He wasn’t president yet, but Washington set the bar high in terms of what a future president might attain here. “Let the hour of attack be the 26th,” Washington famously wrote to John Cadwalader.
2. Abe Lincoln, June 24, 1862
In the middle of the Civil War, the Rail Splitter was on his way back to Washington, D.C. from New York after meeting with Gen. Winfield Scott. He stopped in Jersey City. The Prez didn’t go into detail when asked about his discussions on military strategy, but instead waxed philosophical with this gem: “When birds and animals are looked at through a fog they are seen to disadvantage, and so it might be with you if I were to attempt to tell you why I went to see Gen. Scott.”
3. James Garfield, Sept. 19. 1881.
Fighting for his life after taking an assassin’s bullet in the back, Garfield came to his favorite seaside retreat – Long Branch. (What can we say, the guy had good taste). He fought here for his last mortal breath – and died here. The recorded response to the news from his successor, Chester A. Arthur, comes out of the annals of history like New World Shakepeare, “I hope—my God, I do hope it is a mistake.”
4. John F. Kennedy, Nov. 2, 1961
In office less than a year, Kennedy came to the Trenton War Memorial to stump for gubernatorial candidate Dick Hughes (Hughes’s son, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, still has the family picture of the event, which Caroline Kennedy autographed for him last year). This was the task Obama had last year, when he choppered in dramatically to the PNC Bank Center to buck up a flagging Jon Corzine. The difference, of course, is Hughes won, and Corzine lost. With Hughes at his side, Kennedy said, “In the last nine months, I’m happy to say that this is the first stump speech I’ve made for a candidate and I’m glad it’s here in New Jersey.”
5. Lyndon Johnson, Aug. 27, 1964
The tall Texan went to Atlantic City to deliver his acceptance speech for the presidency at the Democratic National Convention. Johnson thought big. Probably as big as it gets. Delivering a speech drafted by Nobel Prize winning novelist John Steinbeck, Johnson proclaimed, “Americans want victory in our war against poverty.”
6. Barack Obama, July 28, 2010
On his way to New York to appear on “The View,” the lanky Chicagoan stopped at a sub shop in Edison and declared of his sandwich selection, “I want everybody to know when I was 20 I could order a 12-inch.”