Those inclined to consider the talk about the embrace between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as being more the result of hyperactive political reporting on the eve of the election than a genuine controversy might have been right. But yesterday’s Politico story about the governor being Mitt Romney’s first choice to be his running mate lent credence to the notion that there was some substance to the notion that Christie was up to something. The anonymously sourced story seemed to indicate Christie was the likely veep nominee until late in the process when he was suddenly dropped in favor of Paul Ryan. The upshot of the piece seemed to be that Christie and his friends were mad about being used as decoys or thought he had been snubbed.
All this is leading some observers to not unreasonably connect the dots between this, Christie’s convention speech in which he barely mentioned Romney, and his much-publicized post-hurricane “bromance” with Obama. Whether they are right about that is an open question, but there is little doubt that if Christie doesn’t want Republican activists (whom presumably he will need if he runs for president in the future) holding a grudge against him for sandbagging their candidate in the last week of a close race, then he needs to listen to this New York Post editorial and give the country a loud and clear reminder that he wants Romney to win on Tuesday, not Obama.
In thinking about this story, we are inevitably forced to wonder who benefits from the leak? In doing so, we can certainly eliminate Romney or his campaign, since the story does nothing to help the GOP candidate. But does it help Christie? Perhaps.
It could be that Christie supporters are floating the story in order to point to his absence from the GOP as the reason why they think Romney will fall short on Election Day. Republicans should be unhappy about anyone in their party starting the blame game before rather than after the election (though some Democrats started doing so last month). But if this is the result of Christie seeking to score points at Romney’s expense in the week prior to the election, this is something many in the GOP aren’t going to forget.
While Christie’s decision to abandon any thought of politics in the wake of the hurricane was appropriate, he has to know that his lauding of Obama has been interpreted as a statement about his feelings about Romney. As I wrote on Friday, I think he is probably more focused on his re-election than on a putative run for president that may not come for four or eight years — or never materialize. Yet he needs to debunk that notion pronto. If he doesn’t — whether out of characteristic stubbornness or genuine pique at Romney for actual or perceived slights — he needs to understand that like their cartoon symbol the elephant, Republicans have long memories.
As Reuters reports (h/t Politico), Chris Christie has made a statement that might pass the bar the New York Post editorial set about him needing to clarify his stand on the election:
I’m a Republican and I have endorsed Mitt Romney, I support him and I intend to vote for him on Tuesday,” said Christie, interviewed in his home state by a visiting Israeli television reporter.
That may go a long way toward tamping down the controversy but it will also still leave a lot of people wondering about Christie’s motives as well as the source for the Politico story about the vice presidential nomination. One suspects that if Romney loses, we won’t have heard the last of this.