Report: Chris Christie surprised to find people not happy that he lavished Obama with praise before election

I keep thinking, “Christie can’t possibly come back from this.” And then I think, “Wait, did we actually just nominate John McCain and the guy responsible for RomneyCare?”

Never underestimate the Republican capacity to forgive, my friends.

But behind the scenes, the intensity of the reaction from those in Mr. Christie’s party caught him by surprise, interviews show, requiring a rising Republican star to try to contain a tempest that left him feeling deeply misunderstood and wounded…

The tensions followed Mr. Christie to the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Las Vegas last week. At a gathering where he had expected to be celebrated, Mr. Christie was repeatedly reminded of how deeply he had offended fellow Republicans.

“I will not apologize for doing my job,” he emphatically told one of them in a hotel hallway at the ornate Wynn Resort…

Inside the Romney campaign, there is little doubt that Mr. Christie’s expressions of admiration for the president, coupled with ubiquitous news coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath, raised Mr. Obama’s standing at a crucial moment…

“Christie,” a Romney adviser said, “allowed Obama to be president, not a politician.”

Romney 2012 donors, many of whom were doubtless prospective Christie 2016 donors, are supposedly “furious.” Two things here. One: While Christie will wisely and strenuously attempt to frame this as an argument over whether he was supposed to “do his job” in the aftermath of a ferocious disaster, that’s a total red herring. The objection isn’t that he worked with Obama, it’s that he seemed bizarrely determined to lavish fulsome praise on the guy with election day bearing down. He could have simply said, “I’ve been working with the president throughout the crisis. He and FEMA have been helpful.” Mike Bloomberg, who ended up endorsing Obama, politely declined his request to visit NYC after the storm on grounds that it would have been disruptive. Christie could have done that too. Bottom line: How would it have interfered with Christie’s ability to “do his job” if he had merely refused to provide Obama with a glorious bipartisan photo op just a few days before the election? Was O not going to take his calls for FEMA aid anymore otherwise? It’s impossible to believe that this was all a product of storm-induced blindness to the political implications rather than Christie working an angle to appeal to Democrats in New Jersey ahead of a tough gubernatorial race potentially with Cory Booker.

Two: How much will it hurt him really? If Booker does run and Christie beats him next year, it’ll be a morale booster for conservatives nationally who are still bummed about 2012. Then, eyeing a presidential run in 2016, he’ll start tacking to the right. He’ll do a lot of grumbling about Obama to media outlets to try to purge the lingering aftertaste of his Sandy press conference. He’ll also do some outreach to Latino voters and young voters, both in New Jersey and nationally, to build media buzz that he’s “building bridges” to key demographics that the GOP lost in 2012. (His Jersey persona lends itself to a paint-by-numbers “in touch with the middle class” narrative too.) He’ll have more viral-video confrontations and people will ooh and aah over those. He’ll stand out at the debates too as the brusque, no-nonsense guy among more polished candidates. The point in all this won’t be to ingratiate himself with grassroots conservatives; between the Sandy episode with O and his various other heresies, including his belief in man-made global warming, that bridge is probably burned. But, per my McCain/Romney point up top, it’s certainly possible to win the nomination even if grassroots righties disdain you, especially if the base is split several ways among other candidates (Rubio, Ryan, Paul?). I’m not saying he will win, just that it’s silly to write him or anyone off right now. We nominated Mitt Romney and John McCain, guys. Repeat that to yourselves until it sinks in. And then, when it does, tell me how you did it. Because it still hasn’t sunken in for me.

Anyway. Even if Christie rehabilitates himself in time, it won’t be anytime soon. Via Mediaite, here’s “The Five” dumping on him on yesterday’s show.

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David Strom 3:31 PM on March 27, 2023