Mitt Romney’s staffers are conducting “a lengthy autopsy of their campaign” and what they’ve found may cause trouble for Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor was a Romney surrogate and had been the keynote speaker at the GOP convention, but in the days after Hurricane Sandy, Christie’s embrace of President Obama and his praise for Obama’s “outstanding” leadership struck many Republicans as disloyal. Now GOP officials have the data that confirms their suspicions. The election post-mortem found that “an unusually large number of voters who remained undecided until the end of the campaign backed Mr. Obama. Many of them cited the storm as a major factor in their decision, according to a person involved in the discussion.” In the view of frustrated Republicans, Christie helped Obama look like a strong (and bipartisan) leader, costing Romney his late momentum and his chance to win.
Even Rupert Murdoch got involved with the Republican nudge for Christie to declare whose side he was really on. On Nov. 3, Rupert Murdoch warned Christie that he might be responsible for Obama’s re-election:
Thanks Bloomberg right decision.@now Christie, while thanking O, must re- declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years.
— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) November 3, 2012
In a telephone conversation, Murdoch bluntly told Christie that he needed to publicly re-affirm his support for Mitt Romney, which he did the following day.
The New York Times reports that Christie has had to explain himself to angry donors and party leaders, leaving him “feeling deeply misunderstood and wounded.”
“In the days after the storm, Mr. Christie and his advisers were startled to hear from out-of-state donors to Mr. Romney, who had little interest in the hurricane and viewed him solely as a campaign surrogate, demanding to know why he had stood so close to the president on a tarmac. One of them questioned why he had boarded Mr. Obama’s helicopter, according to people briefed on the conversations.”
Even though Christie received the highest marks for his response to Sandy, Republicans still held onto their grudge against Christie at last week’s annual meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association in Las Vegas, with fellow Republicans sneering at him for cozying up to Obama. “I will not apologize for doing my job,” Christie retorted.
Christie’s ability (or strategic decision) to rise above partisanship and his successful management of a natural disaster are likely to keep him in place as a party leader. But he may have to prove his loyalty if he wants to be embraced by Romney’s network of wealthy, generous–and at this point, angry–donors.