US Presidential Election 2012

New Jersey governor Chris Christie rises above Republican taunts

New Jersey governor rejects claims that his praise of Obama helped his re-election

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 3:27am

Bill O'Reilly complained about him. Rush Limbaugh called him "fat" and a "fool". Dick Morris argued that he had cost Mitt Romney the presidency.

On right-wing radio, Fox News and Twitter feeds, Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, has been taking a pounding from high-profile personalities, who said his abundant praise of President Barack Obama's leadership of the recovery after Hurricane Sandy helped snuff out Republican hopes of capturing the White House.

"Judas", they called Christie. "Traitor". Or worse.

"It would not surprise me if Chris Christie at some point became a Democrat," said radio host Laura Ingraham.

The criticism began before election day and only intensified after Romney's loss. It may have been strident, but it placed Christie in a familiar and comfortable spot: being talked about, for better or for worse, as much as any politician in his party - with the exception of Romney and his running mate, congressman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin.

Other Republicans considering running in 2016 have had to watch from the sidelines as Christie took a dominant role in the storm recovery, in ways that recall Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the September 11 attacks.

Over the past week, the governor has been shown repeatedly on television comforting distraught citizens who have lost everything and threatening utilities that have incurred the wrath of New Jersey residents who are without electricity.

Obama alluded to Christie in his victory speech, saluting "leaders from every party" who "swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild".

Christie dismissed the catcalls, telling reporters at a storm briefing in Harvey Cedars, New Jersey, that his praise for the president was no "embrace", just another example of his own celebrated directness.

"The fact of the matter is, I'm a guy who tells the truth all the time, and if the president of the United States does something good, I'm going to say he did something good and give him credit for it," he said.

Asked about 2016, he responded testily: "I want to get through this storm today, OK? Politics becomes a lot smaller when you're dealing with life and death issues. It just does."

Still, as his national profile grows, back at home, Christie must decide whether to seek re-election in a year.

His state is heavily Democratic and one of the few that Obama carried by a wider margin than in 2008. Yet Christie, who has warred with core Democratic constituencies such as the teachers' and state workers' unions, has shown crossover appeal. For months, his approval rating has exceeded 50 per cent.

"People in New Jersey had already seen his brand of leadership, which is very hands-on, results-oriented and bipartisan," said Michael DuHaime, who is Christie's top political strategist. "But I think what this did is it exposed that brand of leadership to a much broader audience.

"Many people in the country are seeing for the first time what people in New Jersey have seen for three years."