POLITICS

Republican governor Chris Christie done with Obama as he eyes 2016 run

Political marriage of convenience over, with New Jersey governor lashing president as weak

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 11:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 11:41pm
 

The once-budding friendship between US President Barack Obama and the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, reached its zenith in May on a storm-ravaged boardwalk in the state's Point Pleasant.

After Obama missed four throws at a carnival game, Christie stepped in, picked up a football and tossed it through a hoop, winning the president a stuffed bear.

"One and done," the governor said as a crowd cheered and the two men exchanged a high-five.

On Thursday, however, Christie used an appearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference to blast Obama in personal terms, as a weak leader, an incompetent president and a book-smart man who lacks wisdom.

Accusing Obama of sitting on the sidelines during bipartisan debt talks, Christie boomed, "If that's your attitude, Mr President, what the hell are we paying you for?"

[They were never] two guys who could sit in a bar and watch the game on
TV RICHARD CODEY, EX-STATE GOVERNOR

The stark contrast between then and now demonstrated how the odd-couple bond nurtured by the pair after Hurricane Sandy has unravelled, and been replaced by a feud between their camps befitting two politicians who no longer stand to benefit from the appearance of a close partnership.

At the root of recent tension is a disagreement about relief for New Jersey residents affected by the hurricane, which hit in October 2012.

Christie in recent days has blamed Obama and his administration for getting in the way of help for the state.

Christie's frustration has become a running theme of his town-hall meetings.

Christie, struggling to contain a traffic scandal that has ensnared many of his appointees, is moving to strengthen his connection to sceptical conservatives and salvage his hopes of running for president in 2016.

Crucial to that effort is demonstrating that he is critical of a Democratic president whom most Republicans loathe.

To many in both parties, Christie's harsh critique of the man he once courted was inevitable.

The alliance had been, in many ways, a marriage of political convenience. It helped Obama solidify his standing with centrist voters in his re-election bid and gave Christie a boost as he ran again last year in the heavily Democratic state.

"These were never two guys who could sit down in a bar and watch the game on TV," said former New Jersey governor Richard Codey, a Democrat. "The relationship was symbiotic, and now it's gone."

Obama's team has played down talk of a split.

"Since the day Hurricane Sandy made landfall, the president has been determined to put politics aside and co-ordinate with local officials to meet the needs of those Americans who were impacted by the storm," said Bobby Whithorne, a White House spokesman.

"We appreciate Governor Christie's close co-ordination during the ongoing recovery, and we hope it will continue."

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