By Simon Blum
As a New Jersey resident, I took particular interest in the eyebrow-raising Garden State visit by President Obama to tour Sandy’s devastation, and the warm words that Governor Christie lavished on our commander in chief both prior to and during the visit. It is clear that the governor went beyond his call of duty to enable Obama to showcase a “presidential” bipartisan photo-op with a top Romney surrogate six days before the election, something that even the notoriously maverick Michael Bloomberg refused to do.
Some have speculated that this stunning move coming from one of Mitt Romney’s earliest and most prominent supporters indicates that our governor secretly prefers that Obama win reelection, so that he has a shot at the White House in 2016. Others, such as Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller, speculate that this indicates that there has been a serious schism between the Christie and Romney. I believe that the facts indicate that Christie’s move is most likely simply a cold population to help him win reelection next year.
– If there was any schism between the Romney and Christie camps, it would most likely be due to some awkwardness during the VP selection process and/or Christie’s underperformance during his keynote address at the Republican convention.
Nothing of note is known to have happened between the two since then, yet Christie has been vocally advocating for Obama well past that point. Most notably, Christie was the only prominent politico on either side of the aisle who almost prophetically foresaw the current state of the race, when he stated on Meet the Press the Sunday before the first presidential debate that, “Come Thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race is going to change.” Christie also likely wouldn’t mind being considered for the U.S. attorney general post in a Romney administration, which would further raise his national profile and spare him a tough reelection bid.
-It would make a lot of sense for Christie to have 2013 on his mind now more than anything else. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows the governor leading potential rival Newark Mayor Cory Booker by a mere 46%-42% margin. If Christie becomes a one-term wonder, his meteoric political career will be history. He’ll go to any lengths to protect it.
-The embrace of Obama to tour storm devastation presents the perfect antidote to Booker. Booker’s claim to fame is being someone who defies stereotypical labels and is a down-to-business manager of his town who is not afraid to break with his party, a la when he famously called Democratic Bain Capital attacks against Romney “nauseating.” Christie embrace of Obama during a crisis in his state is the exact inverse of that.
Moreover, Booker’s profile as a representing a new generation of African-American Democrats has often been compared to Obama’s. Though the president’s campaigning for Jon Corzine in 2009 didn’t help the Democrat much, he is highly popular in the state now and would no doubt be called on to campaign aggressively for Booker and offer his coattails. This cosmopolitan Obama visit, coming less than a year before the gubernatorial race is in full swing, would undercut the probability and potency of any harsh anti-Christie attacks by the president. It is not that easy to walk back his statement today that, “I want you to know that your governor is working overtime.”
In a sense, I see it more as Obama throwing Booker under the bus to boost his own reelection chances (or perhaps get some revenge for the mayor’s Bain nausea) than Christie deliberately doing the same to Romney.
Simon Blum is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in political analysis and communication.