Hurricane Irene played matchmaker for the political odd couple of President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The potential 2012 rivals are unlikely allies in the debate over hurricane relief and they’re spending an awkward afternoon together tomorrow touring flood damage in Paterson.
Despite his repeated denials, Christie is viewed by many insiders as a possible opponent for the President’s re-election bid. Those who see Christie as a Republican challenger for Obama reportedly include some of the President’s own campaign advisors. In late May, Obama operatives began “digging for dirt” on Christie in case the Garden State Governor decides to run, according to the New York Post.
Christie has emerged as rising star on the right since he became the first Republican elected to statewide office in New Jersey for over a decade in 2009. He’s known for tough rhetoric and a strong opposition to tax increases. Christie’s admirers include Speaker of the House John Boehner, Henry Kissinger and Fox News Channel boss Roger Ailes. In late July, Christie sharply criticized Obama’s handling of the debt ceiling debate.
“He has to put his plan in writing and show it to people. … You can’t lead from behind,” Christie said.
Now, thanks to Irene, Obama and Christie find themselves thrust together. In the wake of last week’s storm, Obama clashed with Republicans led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who say disaster relief must be offset by other spending cuts. Obama found an ally in Christie who came out against Cantor’s demand for offsets last week.
“I don’t want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of. … We need the support now here in New Jersey, and that’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Christie said.
Christie is parting ways with his fellow fiscal conservatives because he wants fast federal aid from Obama due to New Jersey’s estimated $2.1 billion in losses due to Irene. His quest for cash means the storm winds brought bromance in the air for Obama’s Jersey visit tomorrow. On Tuesday, Christie discussed the warm reception he’s planning to give Obama during the President’s approximately three hour tour of Paterson tomorrow.
“These storms are not Republican or Democratic storms and we don’t have a Republican or Democratic president — we have one president at the time … and I will be there on behalf of the people of New Jersey to welcome the president,” Christie said.