Obama faces election tests, his first as president
US President Barack Obama faces key political tests Tuesday with two gubernatorial polls and one congressional district election. Democrat Jon Corzine (photo) has locked horns with Republican Chris Christie in the New Jersey race.
AFP - Democrats and Republicans lock horns Tuesday in three off-year elections seen as a referendum on President Barack Obama's first 12 months in the White House.
The hottest race is for governor in New Jersey, with Democrat Jon Corzine -- the incumbent governor in a heavily Democratic state -- fighting desperately to avoid defeat by former Republican prosecutor Chris Christie.
Latest polls showed them in a statistical dead heat, with some analysts saying Christie was best positioned to poach votes from supporters of an independent third candidate.
Obama spent political capital to save Corzine's flagging campaign, including when he made a trip to New Jersey on Sunday.
Republicans, in fierce opposition to Obama's handling of the recession and reform of health care, smelled blood.
"A victory for Republicans in deep blue New Jersey would send shock waves through the country that would be felt right up to the doors of the White House," Republican blog redstate.com said.
Republicans seem likely to score a big success in another gubernatorial race in Virginia.
The swing state was captured by Obama in his election last year, the first time a Democratic presidential contender had managed to do so since 1964.
But Democratic dreams of making the southern state theirs seemed fanciful for now, with polls forecasting a heavy victory for Republican Bob McDonnell against Democrat Creigh Deeds.
Perhaps the most intriguing race is a smaller contest in New York state's 23rd congressional district, where Vice President Joseph Biden stumped on behalf of the Democratic candidate Monday.
The official Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, withdrew over the weekend after being overwhelmed by a rival bid from Doug Hoffman of the tiny Conservative Party.
Hoffman ran to the right of the more moderate Scozzafava, winning crucial if controversial backing from senior Republicans such as Sarah Palin, a possible presidential candidate in 2012.
As a result, Hoffman has become a standard bearer for the conservative wing of the Republicans, the same group behind nationwide protests against Obama's health care and economic recovery plans.
But Hoffman's success also exposed high-level splits in the Republican Party between those urging a move to the right and those seeking a centrist approach that could lure independent voters in nationwide elections for congress and governors next year.
Underlining the bitterness of the feud, Scozzafava followed her withdrawal from the race by calling on her supporters to switch allegiance to the Democrat Bill Owens rather than Hoffman.
The latest Siena Research Institute poll showed Hoffman taking a 41-36 lead against Owens after Scozzafava's departure, but with 18 percent still undecided.
In New Jersey, two polls showed the race too close to call accurately.
In Virginia, a Richmond Times-Dispatch poll showed McDonnell leading Deeds by 53-41 percent.
Also on the ballot Tuesday are mayoral posts in major cities, including New York City and Atlanta, as well as a referendum in northeastern Maine on whether or not to permit same-sex marriage.
New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican media tycoon, looks likely to win a third term after getting City Council to scrap a mayoral two-term limit and spending a record amount of his own money on the campaign.