Alternate headline: “Christie not running in 2016.”

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, says that Republicans remain frustrated with Christie. “We get a slew of e-mail and tweets from Republicans, basically saying, ‘forget hell,’” about Christie, he says. “They’re not going to forget nor forgive what Christie did at the end of the 2012 campaign. They’re just not.”

And in Iowa, Republicans are also frustrated with Christie’s decision to team up with Obama. “I think it is something they’re going to remember,” Craig Robinson, former political director of the state GOP and editor of The Iowa Republican, says…

New Hampshire GOP strategist Mike Dennehy agrees that Christie is risking alienating GOP-primary voters. “I think everyone understands in a crisis elected leaders getting together to view devastation,” Dennehy remarks. But, he says, Christie “just has to be careful about being seen as too cozy with a president who has been sticking his thumb in the eye of Republicans all across the country.” Toward near the end of 2016, he says, “Obama will be most disliked Democrat president Republicans have ever seen.” And the Republicans Christie is alienating are some of the most involved in the volunteering, fundraising, and organizing that is so crucial to win primaries in the early states.

“Obama and the Republican governor appeared to be the best of friends Tuesday, smiling and backslapping their way across the Garden State,” reports Time. (Jay Carney earlier called Christie’s Sandy relief efforts “excellent.”) Below you’ll find vid of them trying to throw footballs through a tire at a boardwalk game stand; Christie nailed it on the first try while O, true to form, went 0 for 5. (Those weren’t his biggest misses today either.) Why would Christie, far ahead in the gubernatorial polls, double down with another conspicuously chummy photo op with Obama knowing that he’ll be bludgeoned with it if he runs in 2016? I think he’s simply committing to his national brand. He was always going to have trouble winning conservative votes in a national primary but his post-Sandy embrace of Obama last October and subsequent endorsement of gun control sealed the deal. If he runs now, it can only be as an overt out-and-proud centrist, aiming to scoop up 35-40 percent of the GOP electorate while hoping that Rubio, Paul, Jindal et al. split the conservative vote several ways. Either that or he’s quietly planning an independent run. Whichever it is, he’ll use his friendship with Obama to prove that he’s bipartisan and that he can bust through D.C. gridlock like no one else on the political landscape. In the meantime, though, expect to see the photo of Obama clutching that bear in a few thousand Republican primary attack ads.

After the video, go read John Sexton’s post on Obama’s “emotional” defense to scandal. As silly as today’s shenanigans with Christie are, this little Sandy-related photo op is helping O politically just like the last one did.