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Victor Post
  • CURT SMITH: Christie's political future likely kaput

  • The sole change between Romney’s six-point lead and week-later three-point loss was Christie’s apostasy.

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  • “I am looking [vainly] for an honest man,” said Diogenes the Ancient Cynic. New Jersey’s blustery, baby-faced governor, Chris Christie, is a man whose cynicism might amaze even him.
    Until a month ago, Republicans couldn’t get enough of Christie’s Ralph Kramden-like edge. Today they can’t run far enough from Christie’s reputed 290 pounds. What a Benedict Arnold! How could he have betrayed presidential nominee Mitt Romney? “A lot of politicians look out for themselves,” says Iowa GOP bigwig Douglas Gross. “They just usually camouflage it better.”
    Seldom have Republicans soured on one of their own so instantly. By contrast, many liberals who before Halloween deemed Christie a troll now credit him with saving the Obama presidency. In leftist Princeton, says The New York Times, once-Christie-loathing dinners cheer his name. Both sides grasp that Chris’s “October Surprise” pivoted the 2012 vote, in ways that still astound.
    It began Monday, Oct. 29. In the Gallup Poll, Romney led Barack Obama by six points with eight days until the election. The Republican road seemed clear: each debate won or done; the momentum Romney’s. Politically, time was the President’s foe. He needed something to reverse, not merely halt, the trend. Obama couldn’t imagine it, but Christie would be that thing.
    That day Hurricane Sandy struck, freezing the campaign and Romney’s movement. At night Christie and Obama began exchanging calls. By then, Obama had activated the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — aid en route to New Jersey from Washington. Trailing, Obama needed Christie more than Christie needed him. No one could imagine the Republican becoming Charlie McCarthy to Obama’s Edgar Bergen.
    In August, Romney had Christie keynote the GOP Convention. The governor repaid him by touting his own record, not the presidential nominee’s. Christie also introduced Mitt at rallies — but not before hyping himself. Seeing this, talking by phone, his campaign expiring, a desperate president sought to use Christie’s ego to cajole him into a role as Obama’s stooge. It wouldn’t, couldn’t, work — until it did.
    For four years, Obama had justifiably been scored for division, hate, and fear — passing Obamacare by bribe, threat, and lie; “using “bipartisanship,” said ex-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “as just a phrase to get what we want.” No wonder Obama was so solicitous, taking and originating Christie calls. To him, what a vision must exist in co-opting the GOP’s blue-collar Everyman. Only Christie didn’t see what a dupe he would shortly seem, narcissism trumping even skeletal common sense.
    Christie previewed, then reviewed, Obama’s mid-week visit on every TV network. He could have merely, but politely, welcomed the president. After all, Obama needed next-week votes, not him. Instead, millions of jaws dropped as he dubbed Obama “outstanding,” “incredibly supportive,” and worthy of “great credit” — to Quinnipiac poll head Maurice Carroll, a “love fest.” All day TV tape showed them walk the beach, Christie’s praise its background sound. Gallup says 42 percent of all voters termed the 60-minute photo-op “a major factor” in their Nov. 6 decision.
    Page 2 of 2 - Some say Christie acted to soften his image for next year’s re-election as governor. (He announced this week.) Others hallucinate that the double-cross will help him become the 2016 GOP presidential nominee. Unlike Bill Clinton, they must have inhaled. Few Republicans will forgive Christie’s betrayal — past Romney kindnesses forgotten, decencies crushed, loyalties destroyed.
    Delusional liberals deny his role in Obama’s victory, but data disagree: The sole change between Romney’s six-point lead and week-later three-point loss was Christie’s apostasy. Only his seal of approval let Obama seem a president, not partisan, causing a huge number of undecideds to break at the last moment for the incumbent — the reverse of virtually every presidential race in modern polling history.
    Without Christie, it is almost certain that Romney would have won. I hope the man Diogenes would loathe runs for president in 2016 — which party, who cares? Either way, politics’ fattest head will be humiliated. It is a destiny Christie deserves.
    Curt Smith is the author of 15 books, former speechwriter to President George H.W. Bush, and Associated Press “Best in New York State” radio commentator. He is senior lecturer of English at the University of Rochester.
     
     

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