Governor Christie & the Election

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

I posted this on our makeshift site when National Review Online was National Review Offline yesterday. The overwhelming consensus was: You’re wrong, K-Lo. 

Cut Governor Christie Some Slack

There’s a remarkable amount of chatter on Twitter and elsewhere about Governor Christie’s decision to let the president come to his state, as a political matter. Feedback to me today insists that the governor should have done a Bloomberg and said no-thanks when the White House called and that by appearing with President Obama, Chris Christie is somehow sending a message to or about Mitt Romney.

(I am on Twitter at @KathrynLopez, by the way.)

Having the president come to New York City is a pain on the best days. Mike Bloomberg made the decision that was best for his city. And Anderson Cooper and everyone else will notice New York’s pain. By appearing with the president, Chris Christie ensured that we pay attention to the likes of Mantoloking, which has now been literally severed from the state, according to a local NBC News report tonight. Houses that survived the hurricane’s initial hit began to burn last night.

Chris Christie made a good communications decision for his state, for one thing, and I take him at his word about what it has to do with electoral politics: Nothing. (See Bob) It was a responsible leadership move: There are people with ties to those suffering in New Jersey who do have electricity and are watching. And the points he made today about giving thanks for our lives are essential ones to move forward with, important for leaders at a time of crisis to remind us of, as crisis hands them powerful platforms. 

Christie, too, is a Jersey guy. People seem to love him when he talks frankly about politics. But what about when he just talks frankly, about human things? I understand how it can be hard to see anything beyond politics in a political season. But there are people in politics. And sometimes we see their unmistakable humanity. The power of Christie’s communications ability here has something to do with the fact that he is suffering himself — having a family history in some of these areas — right alongside others. 

And, on the politics of it: Do we really think a substantial population of voters are really going to be swayed to vote for President Obama on Tuesday because he visited a devastated southern New Jersey as president of the United States?

That said, I heard from one first responder in Brigantine, N.J., who was taking a break and checking what we were saying. (Always so humbling to know that when you get a line you might be checking in on us!) He has no access to any of the coverage of the visit, but he was on the ground at the time. He says the president wound up in the most Republican ward of the city. He reports that one person close to him who still has a W sticker on his car “walked through 60 degree water” to see President Obama because he is the president of the United States and appreciated that he was bringing attention to their devastation, and showing some solidarity with them as they face rebuilding and other choices about how to go forward. 

From a resource perspective, hosting the president put an added burden where they were already overrun with need. But, it was “uplifting for the town.” Barack Obama is after all, the president of the United States, he explained. 

At least for now. And I have got to have more faith in the American people, even if they did manage to elect him once!

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