Chris Christie and Barack Obama – once, they looked so comfortable together. Governor Christie praised the president for all the help he steered New Jersey’s way after superstorm Sandy, giving him a metaphorical pat on the back just weeks before the 2012 election. In May, they exchanged bro-hugs and took a stroll down the Jersey shore boardwalk. Christie even gave Mr. Obama a teddy bear from a concessionaire.
Now, it’s over. Christie last week hit Obama as someone “who can’t figure out how to lead." At a town hall meeting, he opined that he disagreed with the president “95 percent of the time," and that he’d really wanted Mitt Romney in the White House.
“I didn’t want [Obama] to be president but it wasn’t my choice,” Christie told the forum. Curtly.
No, this story is not a lament for a bromance gone bad. It’s a reminder that in politics virtually all public relationships are based on expedience, policy, and power relationships.
Christie no longer needs a rush on federal recovery cash. He’s defaulted to his original position, which is to say, he’s a Republican. He lamented the US Supreme Court’s big gay marriage decisions of last month, for example, decisions many Democrats celebrated.
“Incredibly insulting,” Christie said of the high court’s striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. “It’s just another example of judicial supremacy rather than having the government run by the people we actually vote for.”
Does this mean Christie is actually a conservative? That’s what some on the left charge. Christie’s well-publicized embrace of Obama was all part of an act that fools Jersey voters into thinking he’s middle of the road, writes Kathleen Geier in the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog.
“For every occasionally decent gesture ... there tend to be at least a half dozen other acts that are fairly heinous,” Ms. Geier charges, such as Christie's veto of funding for Planned Parenthood.
But many conservatives themselves still see Christie as a squish. At the right-leaning RedState site, blogger Allahpundit writes that the Jersey governor’s criticisms of the DOMA decision mean he’s going to run for president and may be trying to get back in the right’s good graces.
“Christie’s problem here is that culturally, as a northeastern Republican, and politically, by virtue of his many recent antagonisms with the right his conservative bona fides is suspect,” writes Allahpundit.
Christie’s actions dealing with the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare," are perhaps a good example of the narrow line Christie tries to walk as a Republican in a state that Obama won by almost 20 percentage points.
Christie is accepting federal money for the expansion of Medicaid called for under Obamacare, and allowing that expansion to proceed. That’s something some conservative governors, such as Maine’s Paul LePage, have refused to do.
Yet last week, Christie vetoed a bill that would have made that Medicaid expansion permanent. The reason? He says he wants the flexibility to bail out of the arrangement if the feds change the rules.
Gay marriage may prove a more difficult policy challenge for the New Jersey chief executive, writes Matthew Cooper in National Journal.
New Jersey voters approve of gay marriage, according to polls. Yet Christie vetoed a same-sex marriage bill in 2012. His blast at the DOMA decision shows he has not changed his mind on the issue.
At the same time he’s said he would abide by the results of a gay marriage ballot initiative.
If he truly wants to win the GOP nomination for 2016, he may have to continue to oppose gay marriage, whatever his state’s voters want, writes Mr. Cooper.
“His home state may support gay marriage but the activists who pick Republican presidential nominees surely do not. And he hasn’t done any favors for them lately,” Cooper writes.