The New York Times has a good look today at the rather chilly reception that Chris Christie received at the Republican Governors Association's annual meeting in Las Vegas last week. The paper doesn't have any of Christie's fellow GOP governors speaking on the record to take issue with his decision to put his state before his party in the wake of Superstorm Sandy—something that's to be expected given how cold that would sound—but the anecdotes offered make it clear that Christie didn't exactly receive a hero's welcome.
At a gathering where he had expected to be celebrated, Mr. Christie was repeatedly reminded of how deeply he had offended fellow Republicans. "I will not apologize for doing my job," he emphatically told one of them in a hotel hallway at the ornate Wynn Resort.
"People keep asking me why you were so nice to the president," Governor-elect Pat McCrory of North Carolina told Mr. Christie when they encountered each other beneath a gem-studded chandelier at the hotel. "I tell them you are doing your job," Mr. McCrory said.
"That’s right," Mr. Christie replied, patting him on the back.
As awkward as Christie's trip to Vegas may have been for the governor, the general reception was a good deal warmer than what the governor could expect if he were to venture to Boston to visit what remains of Mitt Romney's campaign:
Inside the Romney campaign, there is little doubt that Mr. Christie’s expressions of admiration for the president, coupled with ubiquitous news coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath, raised Mr. Obama’s standing at a crucial moment.
During a lengthy autopsy of their campaign, Mr. Romney’s political advisers pored over data showing that an unusually large number of voters who remained undecided until the end of the campaign backed Mr. Obama. Many of them cited the storm as a major factor in their decision, according to a person involved in the discussion. "Christie," a Romney adviser said, "allowed Obama to be president, not a politician."
The Times account of the Christie-bashing is only the latest example of conservatives casting blame on the man who at one time was one of Romney's loudest and most-valuable surrogates. The New Jersey governor has also been taken to task by Fox News pundits and has likewise found himself the the target of some less-than-flattering Drudge headlines of late.
But while it's clear that Christie is left with some fences to mend within his own party, it's also evident that the governor's decision to go politics-free in his response to the storm has boosted his image outside of the GOP. According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, New Yorkers actually gave him higher marks for his handling of the storm than they gave to either President Obama or Mayor Michael Bloomberg. So if this is a conversation about 2016 (and, let's be honest, it's as much about Christie's future within the party as it is about 2012), then it's worth noting that any political capital that Christie may have lost with his party's faithful is offset, at least to a degree, by what he's gained with more moderate voters. Yes, that won't help him in a GOP primary but it leaves him well positioned as a Republican power player with bipartisan bona fides at a time when his party is doing some soul searching.