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Chris Christie's star is shining bright. How long can it last?

Polls show Gov. Chris Christie – who is seeking reelection – with sky-high approval ratings, thanks to his handling of hurricane Sandy. Whether that lasts long enough for a presidential bid remains to be seen.

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Notably, Giuliani managed to retain that image, nationally, for some time (it may have helped that term limits put him out of the office just a few months after the 9/11 attacks, which spared him some of the subsequent fights over victims’ compensation, rebuilding, and other thorny issues).

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Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.

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In early 2007, Giuliani was leading all other potential GOP presidential candidates in most national polls, with his approval ratings hovering in the mid-60s among all voters, and in the 80s among Republicans. But throughout the course of the campaign, Giuliani’s poll numbers steadily dropped. His post-9/11 reputation wasn't enough in the eyes of Republican primary voters to make up for his onetime liberal positions on social issues like abortion, gay rights, and guns (as well as his own marital history). 

The harsh reaction from many conservatives to Christie's public praise of President Obama in the wake of Sandy suggests that he might face a similar set of hurdles were he to enter the presidential primary gauntlet.

Of course, dealing with the aftermath of a storm is not the same as dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack. There's reason to believe voters in New Jersey may not show the same levels of patience with their public officials' dealing with the ongoing hassles of cleanup and rebuilding as New Yorkers did in the wake of 9/11. And in terms of national reverberations, the storm is clearly a less significant event (though that could actually be a good thing – since, ironically, Giuliani wound up having to argue in his presidential bid that there was more to him than 9/11, pleading with voters to look at his "whole record").

Still, the goodwill Christie amassed in the weeks immediately following the storm shouldn’t be underestimated, either. A perhaps more relevant comparison is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – who, interestingly, seems to be pondering a 2016 run himself. Bush was widely praised by Democrats and Republicans alike for his handling of a series of hurricanes that battered the Sunshine State in 2004 and 2005. The St. Petersburg Times dubbed him “The Hurricane Governor” in a laudatory profile that quoted Democratic strategists who'd worked for his opponent as saying he’d been “a superb leader.” Two years later, Bush left office with a nearly 60 percent approval rating.

On the other hand, it's worth noting that Bush’s predecessor, former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, was roundly criticized in the wake of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew – with his approval rating in the state going all the way down to a dismal 22 percent. Two years later he won reelection, anyway.


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