In an interview, Codey (D-Essex) detailed a series of summer phone calls, meetings and the results of a confidential poll that nearly threw New Jersey’s governor’s race into the type of turmoil last seen when then-Sen. Robert Torricelli dropped his reelection bid in final weeks of the 2002 campaign.The White House was looking to Richard Codey as a stand in for Corzine who was cratering in the polls, but Codey was coy as to what he would do. Corzine nearly dropped out of the race because his polling was awful over the summer, but he soldiered on by throwing millions of his personal fortune into attack ads against Republican Chris Christie and Corzine convinced President Obama to back him with multiple visits into the state. Corzine ran an ad that largely featured Obama and his ties to Corzine, and later had the President tape a robocall for him in the waning days of the campaign.
Codey made his comments hours after Corzine conceded defeat in Tuesday’s election. He previously refused to discuss it, saying he did not want to affect the outcome of the race. His account was confirmed by other key players, including Torricelli, who advised Corzine during the campaign.
Corzine’s camp and the White House declined to comment.
Codey said he got a call from the White House a week after Vice President Joe Biden appeared at Corzine’s poorly attended primary night kickoff rally in West Orange in June.
"They wanted to talk about what’s going on with the governor’s race," he said. "They would call me every week, every two weeks."
By July, Codey said there was growing concern from the president’s advisers as Corzine’s polls declined even as he poured money into anti-Christie ads. It grew worse after 44 arrests on July 23 in a corruption and money-laundering case.
Corzine privately mused to the White House he was having second thoughts about continuing his campaign, Codey said.
"He was, mentally, as low as you can get," Codey said of Corzine, even before July 23. "Then this ... hit. It was understandable he was having a moment where he was saying ‘to hell with this.’"
Codey said White House political director Patrick Gaspard called him and expressed "great concern about the governor’s race, (Corzine’s) lack of support amongst Democrats and whether or not he would be able to overcome it. He never criticized Jon personally. But he said he was meeting with Obama and ‘the president wants to know if you might run if, in fact, Mr. Corzine got out.’ Can he tell the president ‘Yes.’"
Codey said Gaspard detailed an internal poll that showed Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone about the same as Corzine, but Codey leading Christie by double digits.
The White House clearly didn't want the governorship to fall to the Republicans, and yet it did.