The establishment choice: Christie already cementing support of GOP power-brokers

“The group is there, believe me, and it’s growing by the day, maybe by a factor of 50 times more than what it was in 2011,” Langone tells me. “He’s getting traction with people because people want to win. After 2012, it dawned on a lot of us that we need to have a better candidate, somebody who can connect, and Christie is the person who can do that.” Langone doesn’t make much of criticism of Christie’s handling of Hurricane Sandy: “I know some people say [Christie] got too close to [Obama], but it wasn’t a time for politics and pandering. It was a crisis! I saw it firsthand at NYU’s medical center, and people who get that aren’t unhappy with him.”…

Christie has worked diligently to repair his ties to Romney World, which remains influential in national Republican politics. In late March, he had a private dinner with Romney in Boston, and a few days later Romney praised Christie during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Christie then attended Romney’s donor retreat in June, where his aides linked up with Romney’s former finance director, Spencer Zwick, and Romney’s major donors, and courted them at receptions. Last month, he spent time in Las Vegas with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of Romney’s big-dollar supporters during the general election. And for his reelection campaign, he has hired Russ Schriefer, a former Romney adviser and consulting whiz, to produce his campaign ads…

“His early moves have been good,” says Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican operative who managed the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. “He’s now looking at a decisive reelection victory this year in a blue state, and then he becomes chairman of the Republican Governors Association next year, which will enable him to build all of his relationships to an even greater extent than he has done already. There will always be commentary about [the Sandy controversy], but I don’t think a photograph from five years ago will be an issue in a primary that’s driven, as almost all Republican primaries have been, by electability over ideology.”