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GOP concerned Christie is throwing Obama a political lifeline

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Photo - President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Atlantic City, NJ.  (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Atlantic City, NJ. (AP Photo)
Politics,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie copes with the devastation that Superstorm Sandy wreaked on his state, some Republicans fear Christie may have thrown President Obama a last-minute political lifeline by praising the president for his response to the storm.

Christie, a keynote speaker at this year's Republican National Convention, greeted Obama warmly on Wednesday after Marine One touched down on the Jersey Shore so the president could survey the storm damage.

The governor praised the federal government's help in coping with the disaster, saying the job done by the president was "outstanding" and "wonderful."

Conservatives took note of Christie's photo-op with Obama, in addition to what appeared to be a dismissive attitude on the governor's part about a possible visit to New Jersey by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested," Christie told Fox News, when asked whether Romney would stop in New Jersey.

At a time when Obama and Romney have taken a break from the campaign trail to demonstrate concern for those suffering in the wake of the superstorm, Christie, too, said he was putting aside politics to deal with the problems his state faces.

But with less than a week to go until the election, some conservatives were worried that Christie was giving Obama a crucial, last-minute boost.

Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested Wednesday that the first-term governor may be trying to undermine Romney by propping up Obama.

"Christie has decided to play the role of a Greek column today for Obama," Limbaugh said, referring to the stage props Obama used when delivering his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson, author of the blog Legal Insurrection, said Christie, "is acting like a love-struck teenager, in other words, like America circa 2008."

Some conservatives speculated that Christie is motivated by his own desire to run for president in 2016. If Romney wins, Christie would have to put his own White House aspirations on hold for eight more years, and even then, he would have to get in line behind Paul Ryan, Romney's current running mate, they said.

Others suggested Christie embraced Obama in preparation for a potentially difficult re-election bid he'll face in 2013 in a traditionally Democratic state. Christie may face popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat.

"I think Chris Christie is doing what is in Chris Christie's best interest," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told The Washington Examiner. "He has constituents to worry about, and he's up for re-election."

Obama aides, meanwhile, dismissed any suggestion that Obama's storm-damage tour was politically motivated ahead of Tuesday's election.

"It is entirely appropriate for the president to visit New Jersey and receive updates on the efforts there to recover and to view firsthand the damage inflicted by Sandy," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Despite Republican concerns, analysts said it's unlikely that Obama's appearance with Christie is going to do much, if anything, to alter what is now a virtually deadlocked race.

"On the margins, it might slightly help Obama," Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told The Examiner. "On the other hand, I don't think anyone sitting out there, undecided in a battleground state, is thinking since Christie said Obama is doing a great job, 'I'm going to vote for him now.' "

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner