New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s favorite question these days is whether he regrets working closely with the president on Hurricane Sandy relief.
“No,” he gets to say, before explaining that the work of governing is more important than politics. Then a campaign aide cuts the clip and drags it to a file marked “2016”.
MSNBC’s Morning Joe obliged the Republican leader again on Monday, on a broadcast that marked the passage of six months since Sandy shredded the Jersey coast.
“You are a pariah in your party in many parts,” said host Joe Scarborough, exaggerating for effect. “A lot of big fund raisers are angry with you. A lot of conservatives say they’re done with you – you’re finished in national politics, because of what you did. Do you have any regrets?”
“No,” Christie replied. “No.”
“All right,” Scarborough said, as the studio crew cracked up with laughter. “Next question.”
Christie may yet have a political price to pay for embracing President Obama a month before the 2012 election, but so far it is not apparent that the move has much hurt the governor. At the state level he’s hugely popular: Christie has a 67% approval rating and appears to be cruising to re-election in November, Quinnipiac found last week.
Christie, a possible candidate for president in 2016, is assumed to be monitoring his national popularity as well. But here again, there’s no hard indication that his embrace of Obama has hurt him. The political classes hooted when Christie was left off the invitation list last month for CPAC, the gathering of social conservatives. Invited instead: Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. How are those two looking for 2016? President George W Bush never went to CPAC either, until his last year in office.
Another reason Christie can afford to stand by his embrace of the president: Republicans have proven themselves to be a forgiving bunch when there’s an election at stake. Last year the party embraced a candidate who thought rape cannot result in conception, because it looked like the sad sack might win a senate seat. Is there any doubt that if candidate Christie were polling strong among independents in late 2015, some of these supposedly enraged big fund-raisers would come around to him? The party still has some practical minds and Christie may end up their man.
“I say the same thing to all my critics no matter where they are on the political spectrum,” Christie said on MSNBC. “That is, I’ve got a job to do. And the fact is, there was nothing else that ever crossed my mind in the days after [Sandy].”
It’s talk like that that could help Christie win the middle in a national election, if he winds up running. Meanwhile the same talk plays well in New Jersey, a state that likes Democrats but not as much as it values the monosyllable.
That’s why they love Christie. He knows how to just say no.