Obama to tour New Jersey hurricane damage -- with Chris Christie

Pains me to say it but this is awfully smart retail politics by The One. He got an unexpected political opportunity (and challenge) from the storm to show leadership and compassion in the aftermath. What better way to do both than by coopting one of Romney’s most visible surrogates, the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, into a “message: I care” photo op in New Jersey? It’s a way to show centrists that he’s bipartisan when he needs to be. The alpha-male optics of having Christie forced to stand behind him while he’s at the podium would alone be worth it.

President Obama will join Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, in viewing damage from the storm on Wednesday, the White House announced on Tuesday as Mr. Obama praised relief efforts at a Red Cross headquarters in Washington…

Mr. Christie had been one of the president’s most ardent critics until the storm’s arrival. In the last 24 hours, he has praised Mr. Obama’s leadership and the administration’s actions to speed relief resources to New Jersey.

At the Red Cross, Mr. Obama said his message to officials in the federal government was “no bureaucracy, no red tape.” And he said federal officials were “going to continue to push as hard as we can” to provide resources to places like Newark, where there were major losses of electricity.

I wonder who gets more out of this deal — Obama for the reasons stated above (plus a contact high from appearing with a guy who’s earning praise for his storm performance) or Christie for getting to share the spotlight with a Democrat who’s going to win his very blue state easily next week? Whether you think Christie’s working a political angle here depends, I guess, on how much you like him personally: In fairness, it’d look petty if he denied The One a visit at a moment when he’s on official business, although there are ways to do it that can be framed as apolitical. The Christie-skeptic theory would be that (a) at a minimum, he’s prioritizing his own reelection bid as governor over Romney’s campaign and (b) that just maybe he secretly hopes Romney loses because it’d clear the way for his own 2016 candidacy. (Remember that Christie’s convention speech was lighter than expected for the nominee.) The Christie-phile theory is that he really truly doesn’t give a damn about presidential politics right now. He’s not a robot; he spent the last day being briefed on massive destruction in his state and spent the days before that bracing for landfall from the storm of the century. He’s probably too busy thinking about Atlantic City being underwater to care much about the election. And if you asked Romney whether his reaction is inappropriate, no doubt he’d say that it is. Exit question: Which theory is correct?

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