If Obama wins, how much credit goes to Chris Christie?

The New Jersey governor has praised President Obama's handling of hurricane Sandy. Some Republicans wonder if Chris Christie's own presidential ambitions have, once again, undercut Mitt Romney.

Larry Downing/REUTERS
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in a neighborhood after he tours damage done by Hurricane Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey, October 31, 2012. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stands behind Obama.

If President Obama wins reelection, how much credit should go to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie?

With news coverage over the past few days focused largely on the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, the presidential campaign has been relegated to the back burner, even as Election Day fast approaches. Yet Mr. Obama has still made it into the headlines – most prominently, with Wednesday's high-profile tour of the devastation in New Jersey. Notably, it was a visit that the state’s Republican governor embraced with open arms, calling it “really important” and telling reporters he appreciated the president’s coming “very much.”

Perhaps even more eye-catching was Governor Christie’s public praise of the president, saying in one interview that Obama has been "all over this and deserves great credit," and noting that he’d spoken to him on the phone three times in one day. In other interviews, he variously described working with the president as “wonderful,” and he called Obama's response "outstanding."

Bipartisan praise like that is hard to come by these days – particularly from a top surrogate for Mitt Romney, who gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention – and many analysts have pronounced it a big boon for Obama, politically.

Of course, Christie’s top priority right now is – and should be – the recovery and rebuilding effort in his state. And for that, clearly, he needs the Obama administration on his side. As Russ Schriefer, a top Romney aide, told reporters, Christie is “doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing as governor of New Jersey.”

But surely, the Obama-Christie “bromance” (as the media have predictably dubbed it) must have some Republicans wondering if Christie’s own presidential ambitions have, once again, conveniently undercut the party’s current standard-bearer.

In truth, Christie has always been a problematic surrogate for Mr. Romney. On the stump and in interviews, his brash personality and blunt style often threatened to overshadow the more charismatically challenged Romney. And the question of Christie’s own presidential aspirations has come up repeatedly. At the Republican convention, Christie’s keynote address drew unusual criticism from conservatives who felt it was transparently self-promoting (he notably failed to mention Romney until 16 minutes into the speech).

Yet while Christie's recent praise of Obama may seem like yet another indirect slap in the face to Romney, we aren’t sure it will ultimately help the president all that much, either. Really, the one who is most likely to benefit from all the storm coverage is – not surprisingly – Christie himself. 

It’s in some ways similar to the relationship between President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the wake of 9/11. Even though Mr. Bush’s response drew praise from both parties (at least for a while), it was Mr. Giuliani who was in many ways made out to be the real hero of the moment. It's understandable: After a serious crisis, it’s often the local leader on the ground – the guy who’s directing emergency personnel, sleeping just a few hours a night, wearing the same clothes for days in a row – who really comes across as being in command. The person who takes on the mantle of “leader” in the eyes of a public that’s hungry for leadership.  

Giuliani became “America’s mayor” and eventually parlayed his 9/11 response into a run for president (though by that point, much of the luster had faded). Now it’s Christie’s moment in the spotlight. And while the political reverberations may help Obama somewhat more than Romney, the real beneficiary, at least for now, is most likely to be Christie himself. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.