In what even hardened observers of this state's colorful political scene are regarding as a starting escalation of a close gubernatorial race. Elizabeth Taylor and Rosalynn Carter will be stumping New Jersey next week - Taylor for the Republican candidate and Carter for the Democrat.
Taylor has been seen in recent months at Republican fund-raisers in Virginia and Rhode Island. But she has Never met Raymond H. Bateman, the candidate she will be supporting this Sunday at a $250-a-plate fundraiser in the Palisadium Night Club, which rests on a cliff over the Hudson River and has a view of the George Washington Bridge.
"She has become very involved in Republican politics because of her husband." says Noel Gross, a member of the Republican National Commitee and the host for the dinner dance, John Warner, whom Taylor married last December, has expressed interest in running for the U.S. Senate from Virginia next year.
The dinner dance, a black-tie affair for about 500, will be conducted in an "intimate fashion with no dais and no speeches planned," Gross said. "We are trying to make it a very nice social affair, rather than have political overtones."
The First Lady's visit to New Jersey, where she will speak in behalf of incumbent Gov. Brendan T. Byrne at a $50-a-plate luncheon near Camden and shortly before commenting on the premier of a New Jersey-produced film on mental health, is her first foray back into campaigning since her husband was elected President.
Her visit, along with that of President Carter who came to Newark and Trenton in September, is the result of a meeting between President Carter and Byrne in July. The President pledged then to help out the incumbent's campaign, according to Byrne's campaign manager, Joe Santangela.
Byrne, according to the last statewide opinion poll published near the end of September, is trailing his Republican challenger by seven percentage points. Three months earlier, Byrne trailed Bateman by 10 points.