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Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

Obama’s Friendship with
Christie to Improve
Chance for Re-election?

By Mariusz Zawadzki

Translated By Michał Bolek

2 November 2012

Edited by Lydia Dallett

Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article (Polish)

Can Barack Obama’s “hurricane” friendship with Republican Governor Chris Christie influence the result of the presidential election? It’s not out of the question.

There are few cases in history in which one of the most popular Republican politicians has publicly praised a Democratic president to the skies just before an election, as Christie did.

It all started on Tuesday, several hours after Hurricane Sandy swept through the country. Sandy ravaged the northeastern states of the U.S. but hit hardest in New York and New Jersey, where Christie is governor.

“The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president, personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area…He gave me his number at the White House and told me to call him if I needed anything,” the governor said.

On Wednesday the friendship between the president and the governor from two feuding parties (feuding more and more in last two years) became the topic of the day, second only to the damages caused by the hurricane — in total it killed over 150 people in the U.S. and the Caribbean and the financial losses exceed $20 billion.

Obama flew to New Jersey to see the damage with his own eyes and demonstrate to those harmed in the cataclysm that America remembers them and will help them (and, since the opportunity occurred, he presented himself as a caring commander in chief, which never does harm before an election). As a matter of fact, the president declared New York and New Jersey areas of natural disaster the day before, which made it possible for the state authorities to gain access to federal funds.

To their amazement, viewers watched Obama and Christie slap each other’s backs and pay compliments to each other. “Governor Christie’s behavior after the hurricane has been exemplary,"* the president said. He then invited the governor to the helicopter in which they flew together over the most flooded coastal areas. "It's really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that's going on here in New Jersey," the governor said as a goodbye.

Christie is one of the most characteristic and liked figures in American politics. He’s several dozen kilos overweight, has a roguish face and a biting tongue. He was encouraged last year to take part in the presidential election, mostly because of the shallowness of the Republican candidates who entered themselves, but he refused. He explained that he took upon himself the role of governor of New Jersey and couldn’t leave the residents of his state.

On the evening before the hurricane hit, Christie appealed in a characteristic way to the residents of his state: “Don’t be stupid – get out.”

Such open statements win Christie popularity, which is why many speculated over the summer that Romney might be willing to take advantage of his popularity and ask the governor to be his candidate for vice-president. But in the end the one who received this honor was Congressman Paul Ryan, another young star of the Republicans with ambitions for reaching the White House.

Taking all of this into account, we might speculate that Christie is trying now, a couple of days before the vote, to incriminate Romney, whether in revenge or in order to take part himself in the presidential election in 2016. It’s one of many possible interpretations, because if Romney wins on Tuesday, Christie’s next opportunity to fight for the presidency would arise in 2020.

The consternation was even greater when the governor was asked by the right-wing television station Fox News if he expected a visit by Romney to view the destruction. “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested,” Christie answered. When the journalists of the station inquired why he so eagerly praises Obama, he said, “Everyone knows that I always say what I think. When the president does things that deserve praise, I will give him praise. When the president does things that deserve scorn, I will give him scorn.”

Knowing Christie’s character, it’s possible that his whole behavior toward the president really was spontaneous and frank. But it’s also obvious that Obama, like it or not, gains points by this unusual manifestation of unity just before the election.

A Gallup poll showed that almost 80 percent of Americans rated highly the president’s reaction after the hurricane. One can guess that it’s also because he and Christie were able to immediately reach an agreement in spite of political differences.

*Editor’s note: the original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.



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