Today, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ushered President Obama into his state to do a photo op tour where Obama could demonstrate his bona fides in the presidential look-alike contest. He could comfort the grieving; he could stand in pictures backdropped by devastation; he could receive plaudits from Christie for signing checks that he could very well have signed from Washington, D.C.
The question isn’t why Obama headed down to New Jersey. The question is why Christie, who has a state to run, didn’t do the same as Andrew Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg and tell Obama to stay home.
And the answer is simple: he’s playing politics.
Now, Christie isn’t playing presidential politics the way that Obama is. No, he’s playing gubernatorial politics. Come November 2013, Christie will find himself up for re-election. What’s more, his likely opponent will be Newark Mayor Corey Booker, a supremely popular figure in the state with impeccable credentials and cross-the-aisle appeal. His politics are far more moderate than Barack Obama’s, even though he’s certainly a liberal (which matches the state). Not just that – Booker has been all over the Hurricane Sandy fallout. He was using his Twitter account to attempt to distribute emergency information and reach out to individual constituents. Even more dramatic, Booker drove around the city trying to help residents and deliver supplies. And he apparently didn’t bring a camera crew with him.
Booker is a real threat to Christie’s political ambitions. So Christie did what most politicians would: he reached out to President Obama to boost his 2013 gubernatorial campaign. And Obama, who has been out to get Booker since Booker defended Bain Capital a few months ago, was more than happy to both undercut Booker’s 2013 campaign and grab some photo ops with the New Jersey devastation.
It’s a smart political move for Christie, with possible national ramifications for the presidential race. Obama gets to look like the commander-in-chief; Christie gets to look like a bipartisan governor who cares about disaster management. And Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) gets left out in the political cold, even as he does the real on-the-ground work.