Sunday, July 20, 2008

Obama - PolitickerNJ - Obamaland in NJ (3 parts)

PolitickerNJ's Guide to Obamaland


June 30, 2008 - 5:00pm

A thumbnail New Jersey guide to the history of Obamaland, Part I

By Max Pizarro

Category: PresidentTags: Cory Booker, Jun Choi, Barack Obama, Steve Rothman, Mildred Crump, John Adler, Neil Cohen, Damian Bednarz, Jerramiah Healy, Julie Diaz, Hilllary Clinton, Ronald C. Rice, Ketih Hovey
NJ for Obama organizers Julie Diaz and Keith Hovey.NJ for Obama organizers Julie Diaz and Keith Hovey.

The Obama campaign started small here, with handfuls of coffee house organizers lining up behind a grassroots operation called NJ for Obama in the face of a big party machine backing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and an unpopular war in Iraq.

Founded in an Edison coffee shop in December of 2006, the group’s leader was Damian Bednarz, 25, a Master’s student in international relations with Seton Hall University’s Whitehead School of Diplomacy.

"Obama has something that Hillary Clinton can’t buy or reproduce, and that’s a sense of inspiration," Bednarz said at the time. "If anything, I’m encouraged by Clinton’s frontrunner status because I know our work is so special."

In the months following, some elected officials in the months endorsed the Illinois senator, among them Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D-Union), who came out in favor of Obama in April of 2007, followed by state Sen. John Adler (D-Camden) a couple of weeks later.

"At this time we need someone special... someone who is going to build a bridge brick by brick to peace through negotiation," said Cohen, a graduate of Howard University who arrived at politics through the Civil Rights era.

One common theme early was the appreciation that Obama’s supporters showed for their candidate’s opposition to the Iraq War - which differentiated him from Clinton, who in 2002 authorized President George W. Bush to send in troops.

"As Obama said, he’s not afraid of going into wars," said Cohen, "he’s afraid of going into dumb wars."

The sense at this point was that Obama was at best a longshot nationally and in New Jersey, almost a no-hoper, but as Bednarz organized at the grassroots level, Newark’s new mayor, Cory Booker, began sprinkling speeches with inspirational Obama references and quotes.

In his North Ward introduction of the Democratic Party’s 29th Legislative District candidates in March, 2007, for example, Booker likened Teresa Ruiz, L. Grace Spencer and Albert Coutinho to Obama’s "Joshua Generation."

As most of the rest of the party’s power players stood with Clinton, Booker and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy officially endorsed Obama on the Illinois senator’s first campaign stop in New Jersey in mid May of 2007.

They met him at Teterboro Airport and stood with him as the cameras flashed, just before the presidential candidate drove to Trenton for a town hall meeting with organized labor at the War Memorial.

That wasn’t the first time Booker met Obama.

At the urging of mutual friends, Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, the future mayor and future presidential candidate had first sat down together in Newark in 2004.

"This is a nation right now where we don’t need more political leadership," Booker said. "That’s important, but we really need a leader who speaks to our highest aspirations for ourselves; a leader who reflects our beauty and strength as a people, who reflects who we are but also who we can be."

An old Howard Dean supporter from the 2004 presidential primary, Booker’s ally, West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice, served as the connecting point between Booker/Healy and NJ for Obama.

Rice and Council President Mildred Crump drove to Hoboken in May of 2007 at an invitation from Bednarz to speak at a $150-a head NJ for Obama fund-raiser.

Rice gave a rousing speech.

In a diner in Newark’s West Ward a few weeks later, the councilman confessed that he didn’t know whether Obama had a legitimate shot in 2008.

"We’re going to keep building, we’ll keep organizing to put ourselves in a position to take advantage of anything that happens," said Rice, who continued to prominently display his "Obama for President" buttons as friends of his told him to get a life.

At his low-key appearance at the War Memorial, Obama repudiated the Clinton-engineered North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and called for more rigorous labor and environmental standards in all future trade agreements.

When UFCW member Kathy Wilder of Wall asked the senator, "What are you going to do about Wal-Mart?" there was an up-swell of boos and groans at the mention of the corporate giant, and Obama dead-panned, "I won’t shop there."

Obama still trailed Clinton in New Jersey by 22 points.

Back in West Paterson in early June, Bednarz had finished his Master’s degree and accepted a full-time position with the Obama campaign in their New Hampshire office.

On the night before he left, the political organizer kicked back a last beer in Hoboken, watching the late night commuters return from Manhattan.

He was committed to Obama. He had been ever since he heard him deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Concurrent with his university studies, Bednarz had to this point devoted five solid months of building a statewide network of Obama supporters - a list that grew from four to 25 to nearly 500 members.

But now that he was leaving New Jersey, he couldn’t help but wonder if the entire endeavor was not finally quixotic. He allowed himself only several moments of speculation before concluding that one way or the other, he didn’t care. Obama was the candidate in whom he believed. If Bednarz went down he was going to go down fighting.

He jumped aboard the PATH to Newark, changed trains and headed back to Fairlawn. He would get up and drive to Manchester in the morning and continue organizing.

The new director of NJ for Obama was Keith Hovey, a Montgomery lawyer in his late 30s who immediately began organizing statewide registration drives for the presidential candidate.

"We want to be part of a campaign for a government that is inclusive and intelligent," said Hovey, who as part of his first effort coordinated 200 on-the-ground volunteer canvassers mobilizing in Princeton, Edison, Newark, New Brunswick, Hoboken, Camden, Madison, Hamilton, Plainfield and Sparta.

These volunteers carried two sets of petitions: one to end the war, and one to make Obama president.

With the grassroots effort growing under Hovey’s leadership, the Obama campaign’s national office on July 25, 2007, announced that U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) was endorsing Obama for president.

"It’s time to turn the page and bring an end to the Bush-Cheney foreign policy that has left Americans vulnerable here at home and reduced matters of war and national defense to signs and slogans," said Rothman.

As Northeast Regional Co-Chair, Rothman, a six-term congressman, would lead Obama campaign efforts in the region, which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Rothman was New Jersey’s first congressman to come aboard - and he would be the only one during the primary season.

Every other Democratic member of the state’s congressional delegation had endorsed Clinton, with the exception of U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), who stayed neutral until after the June 2008 primary election.

Rothman claimed he had decided to support Obama for president after watching CNN’s YouTube debate, in which Clinton and Obama had fought over how to conduct U.S. foreign policy.

"Barack's appearance... confirmed for me what I've believed all along," said the congressman. "It's new thinking versus old thinking. This notion of Hillary Clinton’s that we should continue down this path of not talking to our enemies is a policy that has proven to be disastrous to our country. These are not the views of someone who professes to be an agent of change."

Picking up on anti-war sentiment, Rothman said the Illinois senator’s public opposition to sending 160,000 U.S. troops to Iraq gives him foreign policy know-how that Clinton frankly lacks.

"I made the similar vote," the Congressman admitted of his 2002 "yes" vote authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq. But Rothman added that he later "declared it to be a mistake."

By the end of July, 2007, reform Mayor Jun Choi of Edison had also endorsed Obama.

"I’ve been leaning Obama for quite some time now," said Choi, who had publicly blasted Bush at an anti-war rally when the president visited Edison for a GOP fund-raiser weeks earlier.

"I wanted to see if there was real momentum in the (Obama) campaign, and there is," said Choi.

The team was coming together.

Booker anchored a $150-a-head Obama fund-raiser at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. In a speech to a crowd that included Healy, Hovey, Rice, Cohen, Choi and organizers from around the state packed into a small room, the mayor called for a "sacred effort," not unlike what Frederick Douglass had once ascribed to Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

"We have a mere matter of months before Feb. 5th," said Booker. "This is our state. This is New Jersey. We, the leaders - not those of us with fancy titles, not those of us with fancy salaries... we hold in our hands the destiny of our nation.

"It is time for us," Booker said, "the inheritors of glory and greatness, those of us who scan the current landscape and understand that America is not finished yet... We must put forth a sacred effort, and win for Barack Obama."


June 30, 2008 - 10:39pm

A thumbnail New Jersey guide to the history of Obamaland, Part II

By Max Pizarro

Category: PresidentTags: Cory Booker, Jun Choi, Linda Greenstein, Loretta Weinberg, Mark Alexander, Barack Obama, Steve Rothman, Hillary Clinton, Joseph Cryan, Cleopatra Tucker, Neil Cohen, Shirley Turner, Grace Spencer, Damian Bednarz, Jerramiah Healy, Keith Hovey, Kibili Tayari
Obama Campaign State Director Mark Alexander.Obama Campaign State Director Mark Alexander.

The campaign was about to change.

On Oct, 9, 2007, an announcement came down from Chicago regarding New Jersey operations.

Mark Alexander, a Seton Hall University law professor and Obama’s senior policy advisor, would be the campaign’s official state director.

"I am grateful that he is going to carry the fight forward to and through the Feb. 5 contests," Obama said of Alexander. "He is a valued and trusted advisor, and at the same time has deep ties in his home of New Jersey that will be invaluable to our efforts.

"I am proud of the policy work we have done on this campaign and through Mark’s leadership we have built a team of key advisors from the ground up that will continue to offer new and innovative approaches to the challenges this country faces," added the presidential candidate.

A personal friend of Barack and Michelle Obama’s going back a dozen years, Alexander as a child worked on the 1974 Washington, D.C. mayoral campaign of his father, Clifford Alexander, former chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission. Later, he ran Sen. Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential campaign and served as counsel to Cory Booker.

The state director began rolling out more elected official endorsements.

State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) and Assemblywomen Linda Greenstein, Cleopatra Tucker, and L. Grace Spencer followed up on a September endorsement of Obama made by veteran anti-establishment Democrat, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Bergen.

"Sen. Barack Obama is the person to work for the kinds of issues that we women are interested in," Weinberg said at a Trenton press conference with her colleagues. "Mostly these issues are about our families. They are about bringing our kids home from Iraq. They are about the healthcare of people that we love and take care of. They are about our kids’ education, and they are about our environment."

Meanwhile, Alexander interfaced with those grassroots guerillas who had been in the field for months.

In the autumn lead-up to the Nov. 4th, 2007 general election, NJ for Obama leader Keith Hovey held a rally for the Illinois senator in Princeton’s Palmer Square.

"This is a candidate who had the internal fortitude to stand up when most would not, and say that this war is wrong," Hovey told the cheering crowd.

Princeton anti-war activist William Strong still liked New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, mostly based on experience. But most people in the crowd backed Obama.

"Before this event, I walked around Princeton for two hours," said Phil Blackwood, an engineer from Lincroft, who continued to pass out Obama ’08 stickers at the rally.

During the first week of December ’07, the Obama campaign opened its main headquarters in West Orange. A week later, the new state director joined his old friends, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and West Ward Councilman Ronald Rice, at a rally in Newark’s Masonic Temple.

A lot of people in the crowd were NJ for Obama volunteers.

"We’re going to start making some change," Alexander told the crowd of organizers, including Julie Diaz of Perth Amboy, who with her boyfriend Peter Brown was among NJ for Obama’s founding members.

"Change has been a long time coming," Alexander said. "We’re trying to organize ourselves in New Jersey. It’s not going to come easy. No one’s going to give this up. There are a lot of people who want this prize. You’re going to have to walk the streets, you’re going to have to call your friends."

Most of the fatalism about Obama’s campaign was absent now, with new polling numbers not only bolstering morale but filling volunteers with a sense of coming victory.

Michelle Obama said her husband had to win Iowa or it was over, and when she said it some of her New Jersey supporters cringed with the thought that their man could lose in the first contest.

But now the sense of inevitability about Clinton was gone.

"I looked around this last week and sure enough, Barack Obama was up by five points in Iowa," said Rice. "I look around again, and he’s cut Clinton’s lead in New Hampshire to 5% when it was 20% two weeks before then. I looked up again, and black folk are voting for Barack Obama, all over this nation. I looked up one more time, and the race is dead even in South Carolina.

"Newarkers," the councilman told the cheering crowd, "we not only got the best candidate with the best message. We’ve got the best candidate with the best chance of winning not only the Democratic nomination, but winning the presidency next November."

Booker started refining a speech incorporating New Jersey Revolutionary War history that he would use later in the campaign season, in Jersey City. But he also spoke specifically to his candidate’s knowledge of urban issues.

"Our cities should not be places that are charity cases, our cities should be engines of economic prosperity for our nation and I think that’s something Barack Obama understands," said Booker, as organizers registered voters in the Masonic Temple.

On January 3, the day of the Iowa caucuses, Alexander was calmly confident in West Orange headquarters.

"People will have concrete evidence that Barack Obama has real support in a state where there is a large white rural population," the state director said of the African American presidential candidate. "We’ve got to do well in these early states and carry the momentum to the Feb. 5th states, like New Jersey."

Obama won Iowa with 38%, followed by former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) with 30% and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) with 29%.

That shook the foundations of power.

"It’s not good news for Iowa," admitted State Party Chair Joseph Cryan, an ardent Clinton supporter. "But it’s good news for New Jersey. The message from this is, ‘Let’s wake up and get to work.’ The real start of the campaign is tonight."

Partying with other Obama revelers and CNN’s broadcast on in the background at the bar in Newark’s Robert Treat Hotel, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), northeast regional co-chair of the Obama campaign, said of his candidate, "He is an authentic agent of change. If he were elected, the message he would present to the world is that America gets it.

"We understand that the last seven years under Bush have been a disaster," Rothman added. "People around the world would see that America, the land of such idealism and hope, is back, and that the callous and cynical George Bush era is over."

Coming out of Iowa and in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primaries, it looked as though Obama could romp to a blowout victory over Clinton.

Edison Mayor Jun Choi, Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D-Union), and Alexander rallied the troops at a diner in Choi’s hometown.

"Bring it home, New Hampshire," volunteers cried happily.

Hyped for months as a likely battleground, maybe New Jersey wasn’t going to matter in the end. Maybe Clinton would melt down in New Hampshire and the Democratic Primary would be over.

"We saw something happen on Thursday night that was truly remarkable," Alexander told the crowd of Obama supporters. "There are different ways to think about it: a snowball rolling downhill, gathering that momentum; that drop, that little drop in the pond that starts to ripple out; you can think about it as an earthquake perhaps in Iowa."

But on Jan. 8, to the chagrin of NJ for Obama founder Damian Bednarz, who helped collect the numbers in the campaign’s Manchester, N.H. war room, Clinton staged a comeback, beating Obama, 39-36%, with Edwards trailing at 17% and starting what appeared to be an irreversible capsize.

A day later, Obama appeared before an overflow crowd at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. The local troops had hoped to welcome him as the winner of the Granite State and maybe of the primary entire, but there was little disappointment in the room.

His improbable victory in Iowa still inspired awe and anyway he had not lost to Clinton by a sizable margin in New Hampshire.

"Obama isn’t a person anymore, he’s a movie," said Hoboken councilman Michael Russo.

Bunched along the rope line in the gym and waiting for Obama were Brown, Diaz and Hovey, Cohen and Rice, Newark Council President Mildred Crump, Ocean County organizer Stacy Lubrecht, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Booker and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Kibili Tayari. Among them stood other grassroots and local elected officials who supported Obama.

A veteran of the Civil Rights movement, Tayari said his work registering Jersey City voters and manning GOTV ops. before the Feb. 5th primary would be the most important work of his life.

"A new president in the White House who doesn't simply come out of the Washington establishment will restore a sense of integrity to our Democratic republic," Tayari said.

Another Civil Rights-era Obama backer, Cohen, who had been with the campaign almost from the beginning, watched Obama pass at close range on the runway to the podium.

"He may have belonged to us in the beginning," said the assemblyman. "There was the sense that now he belongs to the country."

But New Jersey still had New Jersey, and the dogfight Alexander came in to wage was unfolding now and in even more dramatic fashion than anticipated with the score tightened between Obama and Clinton.

With less than a month to go before the primary, Booker invoked the Battle of Trenton.

"We are the great state of New Jersey," he said. "Our democracy started right here, in a pivotal fight. But the cause of justice goes on. We now have a chance to make real on the boldest dreams for America."


July 2, 2008 - 2:56pm

A thumbnail New Jersey guide to Obamaland, Part III

By Max Pizarro

Category: PresidentTags: Steve Rothman, Shirley Turner, Richard Codey, Ray Durkin, Mark Alexander, Loretta Weinberg, Jerramiah Healy, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, Cory Booker, Chris Durkin, George Norcross, Caroline Kennedy, Bill Bradley, Barack Obama

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, backing up Senate President Richard Codey's endorsement of Obama.Newark Mayor Cory Booker, backing up Senate President Richard Codey's endorsement of Obama.

Obama Campaign State Director Mark Alexander knew it would be hard to pry Sen. Hillary Clinton’s supporters loose in New Jersey after her victory in New Hampshire.

This was a fight now, and Clinton’s people were solid.

"We have an opportunity here in Hudson - Hudson, Hispanics, Hillary and history," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) cried to a North Bergen audience of mostly Latinos with Clinton on stage.

The response was near to deafening with Clinton standing on stage with Menendez, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-13) and state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex).

But that didn’t mean there weren’t other opportunities for Obama; in fact, one big opportunity, in the form of Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex), who was at the moment glumly serving as state director for the foundering campaign of John Edwards.

Alexander knew Codey. He also knew Codey was close to former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), who had come onto the Obama campaign as an advisor.

Alexander started working the phones.

A basketball coach used to pulling a player off the floor when he can’t score or rebound, Codey was watching Edwards closely.

"He’s going to have to do something here in Nevada," said the former governor after his candidate’s back-to-back losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Edwards finished in third place out west, and all signs were that the candidate’s "change-agent" message was lost in Obama fever.

Codey felt bad. He had forged a connection with Edwards when the latter ran for vice president on a ticket with John Kerry in 2004. While Codey saw in Kerry’s lordly forbearance a troubling lack of street smarts, he liked the blue collar appeal of Edwards and thought the former senator from North Carolina could win a general election.

Going into Nevada, Codey had hinted that he might withdraw his support for Edwards if the candidate failed to impress there or in his native state of South Carolina.

Codey hung in post Nevada, but Edwards tanked in South Carolina and four days later announced he would end his run for the presidency.

Like Alexander, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) was already working Codey hard about coming over to the Obama Campaign.

A foe of the Bergen County Democratic Organization, Weinberg tried to appeal to the Senate President’s longtime resistance to bossism, including his feuds with South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross, and North Ward Democratic czar Steve Adubato.

Weinberg found a natural comfort level with Obama because of the independence she identified in his supporters.

"I would have gone with Hillary," Weinberg said. "But it’s like I told the governor when he asked me why I couldn’t back her. I told him, ‘She’s acting like one of the boys.’ By that I mean, I didn’t see any evidence of a grassroots campaign. She had the old guard, the old boys’ network, and that appeared to be about it in terms of a campaign in New Jersey."

There was no immediate word from Codey.

Then Ray Durkin, former state director of the Democratic Party, called Alexander and Bradley and told them if they wanted Codey to join them they should have Obama call the former governor directly and ask him for his support.

The day after Edwards dropped out, Codey convened a press conference at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in his home town of South Orange. This was six days before the Feb. 5th New Jersey primary.

Surrounded by Obama supporters, including U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), Alexander, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), and Weinberg, Codey endorsed Obama.

"As governor and as senate president, I have built coalitions of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives alike to do what is right for New Jersey," Codey said. "This is the only way to govern effectively, and I have long been appalled by the slash and burn, winner-take-all kind of partisan politics practiced too often by both parties in Washington.

"Barack Obama has the unique ability to rise above the politics of fear and division to bring the change we desperately need," he added. "Like myself, building coalitions to get results has been the cause of Barack Obama's life, not just the rhetoric of a campaign."

Codey saved for last the anecdote about his phone conversation with Obama.

"I asked him what’s the skinny about the fact that he’s part Irish. He said to me, ‘Governor, I swear to you, I am.’"

Knowing Obama’s late father was a full-blooded Kenyan, Codey said he then jokingly asked the presidential candidate, "‘Now the Irish part, is that on your father’s side?’"

Codey was so thrilled by the story that when Weinberg at the press conference couldn’t resist jumping into Codey’s narrative and saying, "That’s right, O’bama," the former governor said amid laughter, "Don’t take away my lines."

"I said you’re Irish, right? And he said, right. And I told him that means we’re brothers," Codey said. "It was a good conversation."

Codey had campaigned for Bradley in New Hampshire in 2000 when the ex-NBA star ran unsuccessfully for president. With Codey’s remarks concluded, Bradley now towered over the podium.

Alert to special interests dominating elections and deciding the fate of the country to the detriment of most Americans, Bradley noted that the United States’ ranks 114 worldwide in voter turnout in national elections. In Bradley’s view, Obama’s anti-establishment campaign had the long-term potential to re-engage Americans in politics.

"I think every couple of generations, somebody comes along who reminds us that we're Americans, and what it means to be an American, by appealing to the ideals that animated the founding of the country," Bradley said. "I think that is what he (Obama) has done in a remarkable way, and he personifies the very best of our country."

Clinton still had an edge in New Jersey. Polls showed her up by five to ten points here.

"The media has really given Obama a pass," complained Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, a Clinton supporter. "They haven't scrutinized his performance or his record. Just as an example, his initial statement that he was opposed to the war: that was a prescient and wise exercise of judgement on his part. But then as Hillary's pointed out, once he got into office, he voted to continue to fund the war."

In the weeks leading up to Feb. 5th, Alexander oversaw multiple statewide days of action, in which Obama volunteers went door-to-door, made phone calls and waved Obama for America signs on train platforms.

"I want everybody to leave here with something to do today," the state director had told a crowd of 5,000 people in Jersey City on Jan. 9.

On the weekend before Election Day, 1,000 Obama volunteers worked the City of Newark.

"I’m all Obama all the time," said Booker, stopping by the campaign’s Broad Street headquarters to rally campaign soldiers. Chicago infused the New Jersey campaign with $100,000-worth of glossy fliers that highlighted the recent endorsements of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and his niece, Caroline.

It was a last minute happening on a work day in bad weather, but Obama allies still had hoped to pack the IZOD Center for a Feb. 4 rally, featuring the presidential candidate, the Kennedys and movie actor Robert DeNiro. A veteran guard scanned the mostly empty arena and guessed 6,000 people, a figure that most media sources later put closer to 3,000.

New Jersey activists said up close Obama looked exhausted.

"He got embarrassed today at the Meadowlands," a Clinton supporter said Monday night, right before Election Day. "He’s going to get buried in New Jersey tomorrow."

In the Essex County Clerk’s Office with night falling on Election Day, clerk Chris Durkin watched the numbers come in from the outlying towns and from Newark. Voter turnout was huge in the county seat, and that was likely very good news for Obama.

In the Wilshire Grand, Obama’s supporters started celebrating, but their glee proved decidedly premature, as the larger view showed Clinton taking 16 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

In Essex, Obama bested Clinton in 13 of the 22 towns. He didn’t blow her out in Newark - earning 57% to 43% of the votes in New Jersey’s biggest city - but it was good enough for him to win Essex: 56% to 42%.

Obama also won the progressive-leaning Mercer, 54% to 44%. He squeaked out a 50% to 48% victory in Union, and beat Clinton by one and two points respectively in the very low Democratic Party turnout Republican strongholds of Hunterdon and Somerset.

But he lost badly in Bergen, 59% to 39%. In Hudson, where Menendez had manned an aggressive machine operation, Clinton crushed Obama, 61% to 36%, and in Middlesex, Clinton won, 57% to 40%.

It added up to a nine point, 54% to 45% Clinton victory in New Jersey.

On stage in the Wilshire, weariness and heartbreak could be heard in the voices of some of Obama’s supporters. They had worked on the street level at this, many of them, especially the local elected officials. They could not at that moment grasp the effects of a larger political war beyond New Jersey.

Defeat sank in painfully.

But Booker picked up the fight themes laid down by Codey and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, and digested the still larger view - which showed Obama winning more of the 22 Super Tuesday states at stake, although Clinton claimed the more delegate-plenty states.

The up close and personal disappointment in New Jersey notwithstanding, Feb. 5th proved to be yet another Clinton-Obama stalemate on the nationwide primary map.

The fight would continue.

That meant advantage Obama, in Booker’s view, because the Illinois senator had always been the underdog. The fact that he had shaken New Jersey in losing was a tribute to the campaign’s momentum, according to the Newark mayor.

"The people saw within their hearts and within their nation their dreams, they began to hear echoes of old, from people of old," said Booker. "They told their children and their families 'I believe.' They believed in Georgia and Connecticut and Illinois... They believed that our nation could come together."

Over the cheers that filled the ballroom, which moments earlier had been silent with a sense of loss, Booker cried, "America will rise again and be the giant of love."

Two weeks later, powerful South Jersey Democratic Party boss Norcross threw his support to Obama.

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.