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Did Chris Christie’s spectacle with Obama stop GOP momentum?; Updated: Christie phones Obama to congratulate him, sends Romney an email

When I first heard this theory, I was skeptical and immediately dismissed it as silly. Who, I thought, would allow something so asinine to influence their vote? Sadly, more people than you’d think. In the exit polls, the following question was asked: "In your vote for president, how would you rate the importance of Obama’s hurricane response?" The results, compiled three different ways, are as follows:

Total Obama Romney
The most important factor 15% 73% 26%
An important factor 27% 65% 33%
A minor factor 22% 51% 46%
Not a factor at all 31% 28% 70%
Total Obama Romney
Important 42% 68% 31%
Not important 54% 37% 60%
Total Obama Romney
Factor 64% 62% 36%
Not a factor 31% 28% 70%

To summarize, an unbelievable 42% of the electorate considered Obama’s "hurricane response" to be an important determinant in their decision. For 15%, it was the most important determinant. Maybe it should be a minor factor — in the neighborhood of Big Bird or binders full of women, for example — but the most important factor on which their vote is based? That simply makes no sense, unless the 15% who provided that response lived in Seaside Heights. But the numbers are what they are. For 64% of the electorate, Obama’s response was at least a factor in their decision. Of the 42% for whom this was important, nearly 7 in 10 voted for Obama. Of the 64% who said it factored into their decision 62% voted for Romney. This is a lot of people, and at least partially explains why a majority of late-deciding voters went to the incumbent when late deciding voters traditionally cast their ballot for the challenger by large majorities.

Given the data, there’s no doubt that Hurricane Sandy helped Obama. This brings us to the question I posed in the headline: Does Chris Christie deserve some of the blame? I’d have to answer in the affirmative. One of the GOP’s consistent messages throughout the campaign (to the extent they had a consistent message, that is) was that Obama was a partisan Democrat who refused to find common ground with Republicans. For example, one of Romney’s ads with which we were deluged in Ohio knocked Obama’s inability to work with Republicans while touting the Mittster’s bipartisanship in Massachusetts where, we were told, he achieved great things working with a state legislature that was 85% Democrat. Romneycare, presumably, was a shining example of the wonders that could be achieved with Romney’s bipartisanship.

However, in the final days of the campaign when those late deciders who, by definition, are moderates for whom bipartisanship is a virtue prized above all others, were making their decision, the country was treated to the specter of one of the nation’s best known Republicans (even if in name only) giving Obama a bear hug before the two of them strolled arm in arm near the Jersey shore. Prior to that Christie was over-the-top effusive in his praise for Obama’s "outstanding" leadership or something:

And with that, Romney’s narrative is destroyed and Obama’s suddenly a great bipartisan leader. Never mind the fact that during the entirety of his presidency, Mr. "I won" has been anything but, and the "great leadership" leadership to which Christie referred with regard to Hurricane Sandy amounted to little more than a couple phone calls from the White House situation room and a bear hug with Chris Christie before jetting off to Las Vegas (again), which the star-crossed New Jersey Governor was more than happy to provide him. Surprisingly, both the phone calls and bear hug were captured on film and featured prominently by the mainstream media during the week leading up to the election. Is there any wonder both Chris Matthews and Michael Moore are openly happy Hurricane Sandy occurred?

There are several theories being floated as to why Christie did what he did. The most innocent I’ve heard is that he simply didn’t know any better and was mesmerized by Obama’s divinity or something. Throw in Bruce Springsteen and Christie was reduced to a weeping, quivering blob of goo. Besides, Christie insists, he did nothing wrong and his very public bromance with Obama had nothing to do with Romney’s loss. Team Mitt disagrees, of course, though I’d take anything that comes from Romney’s campaign with a large grain of salt. As with losers like Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace in the McCain campaign, Romney’s advisors are looking for a scapegoat to whom they can shift the blame from their own incompetence. If Ferhnstrom and company get hired by any future candidates, those candidates deserve the dismal campaigns they’ll get.

I doubt Christie is naive enough to believe his actions were innocent and had no impact. Two other theories for Christie’s actions are far more plausible. First, as Politico reported last week, Chris Christie was Romney’s first choice for VP. But the more Team Mitt was exposed to Christie, the more they soured on him as a potential VP pick. When Paul Ryan was ultimately selected, the theory goes, Christie was rankled at being "passed over" and thus was more than willing to give Obama his photo-op at the beach.

The other theory, which I believe is the most likely, is simpler: Chris Christie wants to be president. A Romney victory would put off those plans for at least 8 years, possibly longer. If Romney wins, Christie won’t even get another chance until 2020. That is unless he were to mount a primary challenge to Romney in 2016, which is something an establishment type like Christie would never do. But if Romney loses, Christie would have a clear shot at his party’s nomination in 2016. And make no mistake, the GOP Establishment will do what they can to exclude actual conservatives from the process and nominate another moderate in 2016, whether it’s another Bush or Chris Christie. Ann Coulter, who declared Mitt Romney to be "the perfect candidate" after his loss to Obama, would certainly be happy with Chris Christie as the nominee. Indeed Coulter, who now resides somewhere in the twilight zone, defended Christie by saying his bizarre behavior with Obama actually helped Romney. I’m not making this up.

Via the Daily Caller, I’ll leave you with Laura Ingraham’s analysis of Christie’s actions.  Along with strolls on the beach, Ingraham notes that Christie shares at least one other characteristic with Obama: First and foremost, it’s always about him.

Update: (h/t HuntingMoose) Via Hot Air:

I don’t know, guys. I just don’t know.

“We didn’t have a political strategy discussion. I said, `Congratulations on your win last night, Mr. President,’ and he said, `Thank you,”’ Christie told reporters today at a National Guard Armory in Franklin Township…

Asked if he’s spoken to Romney since his loss, Christie said: “No; we exchanged e-mails last night,” Christie said. “We haven’t spoken on the phone yet.”

One of Romney’s biggest fundraisers told WaPo (anonymously), “A lot of people feel like Christie hurt, that we definitely lost four or five points between the storm and Chris Christie giving Obama a chance to be bigger than life.”

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