President Bush is in New Jersey today for some political mind games.

Jersey is not, by any conventional measure, a battleground state. Al Gore won by nearly 16 points here in 2000, and a Republican has not won here in 16 years. If on Nov. 2 Bush is doing well enough to be in contention in New Jersey, he in all likelihood would have already locked up the election elsewhere.

But this is not wasted time for Bush. Marlton is in the Philadelphia media market, which means his speech here will be covered by television in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, which IS a battleground state. And, while reaching voters of Pennsylvania, Bush might have the secondary benefit of forcing the Democrats to spend more time and money to keep New Jersey in their column. Vice President Cheney was in southern New Jersey last week on much the same mission. In both cases, former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik gave the introduction.

Democrats say the Republican efforts in New Jersey are a "head fake" to fool the Kerry campaign. And, indeed, most polls show Kerry ahead here, although one showed the race to be a tie. Still, Democrats have been sufficiently worried about the situation here that they sent vice presidential nominee John Edwards here 10 days ago.

"It might surprise some to see a Republican presidential candidate in New Jersey in late October," Bush told his boosters here. "The reason I'm here, with your help we'll carry the state of New Jersey."

-- Dana Milbank