Delighting in the cynicism of it all, Maureen Dowd counts the political benefits — I’m desperately trying to avoid using the word “optics” — flowing to President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as they survey the damage to the Jersey Shore wrought by Hurricane Sandy:
White House officials seemed a bit flummoxed by Christie’s bearhug. “It’s unnerving,” one laughed, noting how odd it is that a Romney big gun might help break the stubborn tie in the electorate in Obama’s favor.
They speculate that Christie, who always puts Christie first, has decided that it’s better for his presidential ambitions to be a maverick blue-state governor with a Democratic chief executive exiting in 2016 than to have President Romney and Tea-Party Republicans in Congress pulling him over to the extreme right for the next eight years. He also knows he’ll need a boatload of federal cash to make his state whole again. …
Rather than campaigning, which he finds draining, the president was in the Oval calling Republican to work things out. But this time, unlike with John Boehner at a fateful moment, a flattered Christie took Obama’s calls. While Romney campaigns in Florida Wednesday, Christie and Obama plan to tour storm damage in New Jersey, a picture of bipartisanship, putting distressed people above dirt-slinging politics.
And that’s a grand bargain for both of them.
First, as to psychology, I agree with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg:
Christie, in my experience, is a deeply emotional and highly sentimental man, and he is torn-up about the devastation along the Jersey Shore. The support he’s received from President Obama — the support he receives from anyone — at such a wrenching moment, makes him inordinately grateful. And President Obama has been extremely attentive.
That does’t mean that Christie isn’t thinking a little about politics right now. Where Dowd and others are mistaken, though, is to assume that Christie is thinking about positioning himself for 2016. That’s ridiculous. Christie has more immediate fish to fry — namely his own reelection in 2013. Unemployment in the Garden State remains stubbornly high. Atlantic City’s new Revel casino, subsidized by the state and personally promoted by Christie, is struggling to stay on this side of bankruptcy. And he would face a very formidable opponent in Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is contemplating a run.
In short, for Christie, there will be no 2016 if he loses in ’13. To the extent that he’s thinking about politics — to repeat, my opinion is: not much at all — Christie is still very much in a New Jersey State of Mind.