As they toured the newly re-opened boardwalk at Asbury Park Tuesday, President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie played a game called “Touchdown Fever.” The president took five shots at the game, trying to throw the pigskins through a tire. Christie sunk his football on the first try.
“One and done,” the governor said as the president high-fived him.
“That’s ‘cause he’s running for office!” Obama joked.
Christie’s perfect shot isn’t the only reason for his reelection team to be smiling about Tuesday’s press tour. Working with President Obama has done good things for Christie’s reputation in his home state.
In the months leading up to the October storm, numerous polls found Christie’s approval in the mid to low 50’s—the highest ratings he’d seen at that time, but nothing that guaranteed his reelection. After touring the Jersey shore with President Obama and working alongside him to help the area recover from the devastation of superstorm Sandy, his approval surged to 72%.
As Christie’s ramped up his reelection campaign in recent months, that number has stayed high, even as he criticized members of his own party for refusing to support Sandy clean-up funding and praised Obama for keeping his promises to Garden Staters seeking storm relief. Of course, Congressional Republicans have only a 22% approval rating.
Obama won the Garden State by 17 points, and in a recent NBC News/Marist poll 42% of Obama voters said they would support Christie come November.
But if he wins the Governor’s mansion again, Christie may take a shot at the White House in 2016, and these “bipartisan bromance” moments with President Obama could both help and hurt him.
Christie enjoys high favorability ratings across party lines according to a recent PPP poll—with 41% of Republicans, 40% of Democrats, and 45% of Independent voters supporting the Jersey governor. No one, not even Hillary Clinton, commands that level of universal support. Christie also comes closest to besting Clinton in a hypothetical match-up.
However, Christie remains locked in a four-way race with other top GOP candidates, and in the last 6 months his approval has remained stagnant while Tea Party Republican Senator Rand Paul has seen a large improvement.
The biggest issue for Christie is which style of Republican his party will be ready to elect come primary season 2016. Will the campaign ads featuring multiple photos of Christie and Obama hand and hand on the Jersey shore help him with the typically more conservative voters who vote in GOP primaries?
Bob Dole advised his party to put up a “closed for repairs” sign and work on some policies and ideas. A Republican restructuring–if it moved the party away from the Tea Party extremists–could help Christie, but it’s not yet clear that that’s the direction the party will choose.