No stranger to controversy before the election, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is now being cast as a major player in the defeat of fellow Republican Mitt Romney. Or at least that’s the role some embittered Romney supporters see him as having played as they sift through the ashes of defeat.
So, did Christie help to sink Romney by praising President Barack Obama for his response to Hurricane Sandy? “A lot of people feel like Christie hurt, that we definitely lost four or five points between the storm and Chris Christie giving Obama a chance to be bigger than life,” one of Romney’s biggest fundraisers, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, complained to The Washington Post.
Lou Dobbs of Fox News went so far as to assert that Christie “literally slobbered over” the president for the latter’s visit to the storm-ravaged state and the president’s obvious sympathy for those in Sandy’s path. Surely, Dobbs meant “figuratively” rather than “literally,” which would still have been a debatable adverb.
But never mind. Dobbs went on to suggest that the federal response to the hurricane disaster wasn’t, in fact, that great, and that the feds aren’t doing any better on this disaster than they did with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That storm, of course, will be long remembered for having devastated New Orleans and the not always effective actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose honcho, Michael D. Brown, had honed his skills in part by helping to run the International Arabian Horse Association for 12 years.
“Heck of a job, Brownie,” President George W. Bush said of the New Orleans rescue and clean-up efforts. Well, maybe not.
Back to whether Christie cost Romney the election when he praised Obama’s concern and compassion for the storm victims (see Main Justice’s report.) It shouldn’t be forgotten that Christie has been a frequent critic of Obama, that he gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention and that, in fact, he campaigned for Romney and many other Republican candidates.
Christie, previously the Garden State’s U.S. Attorney, said he was very disappointed that Romney lost, and he refuses to accept blame for the defeat, as he made clear in an exchange with NJ.Com. “As a party, we have to look forward to what our challenges are in the future,” Christie said. “This election is over. So we have to look forward to the next challenges.”
Ah, but should we read something into the fact that Christie telephoned the president to congratulate him, while he only sent Romney a consoling email, as the Huffington Post noted? And is Christie weighing a presidential run of his own in four years, or eight, or somewhere down the line? These are questions that only Christie, a red governor in a normally blue state, can answer.
Before we say farewell to the 2012 election, let us wander down Memory Lane for a moment. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader was accused by some of waging a silly, ego-driven presidential campaign that drew votes away from Democrat Al Gore in 2000, to the benefit of George W. Bush. Maybe there was a bit of truth in that. Or maybe the real culprits were the Electoral College and the Supreme Court.
Besides, Gore would have gone to the White House if he had been able to carry either West Virginia, a non-country club state if ever there was one, or his home state, Tennessee. But Republicans lured West Virginia voters by talking up clean-coal technology and appealing to their conservative social values. As for the people of Tennessee, maybe they felt Gore had lost touch with them.
Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman had a coolly analytical explanation for Romney’s defeat. “The reasons we lost the election were pretty clear when you look at the demographics of who voted,” she told the Huffington Post. There were more Hispanic voters and more Asian-American voters this time than four years ago, and there will be more four years hence. (Whitman, by the way, is in the dwindling ranks of moderate Republicans.)
Election defeats can be crushing, and losers sometimes say fooling things. As for the fundraiser who said Christie’s praise of Obama probably cost Romney four or five points, Obama’s popular-vote margin was 50 to 48 percent, or about three million people the last time we looked. If Christie had offered the president only a crisp handshake and grudging smile, would three million people have voted the other way? We doubt it.