New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may have a problem appealing to hard-line conservatives but he has knack for courting everyday voters, at least in his home state.
The latest example came last weekend when Christie emphasized his role as a crisis manager as he visited the site of a devastating boardwalk fire last week at Seaside Park, N.J. The same community suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Christie comforted business owners at and near the boardwalk who lost their livelihoods from the fire (no one was killed in the blaze). He said that he understood the emotional shock and sadness that another disaster had caused to local residents, but that it would soon be time to move on and start rebuilding. He announced a plan to release $15 million in state aid to help local residents recover.
"I will not permit all the work we've done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened [in the fire]" he said, standing near a burned-out pizza shop and an arcade that he and his family had patronized in the past. "While we have lost a place that has provided generations of memories to our citizens, we will rebuild. We will make new memories, because that's what we do."
This optimism was probably what the residents of New Jersey wanted to hear. Certainly the business people whom Christie consoled at Seaside Park were glad to see him. And his remarks added to the can-do, no-nonsense reputation of their governor. It also is likely to give him a boost as he seeks a second term this fall. He is the prohibitive favorite as the Republican incumbent, even though New Jersey is generally a Democratic state.
Christie angered some hard-line conservatives in late 2012 when he lauded Democratic President Obama for the swift federal response to the hurricane, which ravaged many communities in New Jersey.
Those conservatives say Christie may actually have turned the national election Obama's way because of his praise.
This is far-fetched, but it gives an indication of the problem Christie might have if he runs for president in 2016, which he is considering. In public opinion polls, he is rated one of the early leaders for the Republican nomination, but some conservatives don't believe he is truly one of them. Any "collaboration" with Obama, such as praising him for hurricane relief, is considered heresy among some GOP hard-liners who are an important force in the Republican presidential primaries.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook and Twitter.