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New Jersey Online


Christie's Hurricane Sandy Response Could Lay Groundwork for Presidential Run

November 18, 2012

By Nicole Gelinas

Who lost it for Mitt Romney? Some folks are pointing their fingers at the Garden State, blaming Gov. Chris Christie for the Nov. 6 thumping. But Christie should continue to do exactly what he’s doing and ignore them. If Christie wants to make a run for the presidency, his clearest path is to forget about the national soul-searching that’s happening in the Republican Party and rebuild well from Hurricane Sandy.

While surveying damage arm-in-arm with President Obama one week before the election, Christie threw politics aside in favor of tending to the storm-broken parts of New Jersey. Republican pundits castigated the governor for picking real life over campaign loyalties.

"It certainly hurt him, certainly among activists in the Republican Party (who) will remember that," political consultant John McLaughlin told Albany, N.Y., radio host Fred Dicker.

Probably, but most national voters are not party activists.

In fact, there’s a real hunger on the national stage for someone who offers pragmatic, no-nonsense solutions to real problems. And voters want someone who can competently execute those solutions.

It is reasonable to think Romney lost because he never told voters what he had done in the past or would do now to solve specific problems. He wanted to cut the budget, but never said what he would cut.

Romney could have run a campaign based on specific examples from his history of devising practical solutions to practical problems, whether in Massachusetts as governor, at Bain Capital as an executive or even in turning around Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics.

He didn’t.

No one could figure out whether Romney would be a good president because he didn’t give them a chance to.

It makes sense that younger voters, including minorities, would be most worried about this omission. They’ve been through a tough decade or so, starting with 9/11, and may consider the ability to get something done more important than party positions.

Christie, then, has a real opening. He’s off to a good start.

The governor was decisive and fast in imposing rationing at gas stations — far faster than Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York.

Observers can argue whether gas rationing, in the economic abstract, is a good idea, but at least Christie showed he didn’t care about the political consequences of making a decision for his state — most obviously that someone might compare him to Jimmy Carter in a future campaign ad. He did what he thought was right.

Christie should take the same approach to longer-term rebuilding.

He can lead with tough decisions on issues such as how much to spend on rebuilding infrastructure, including NJ Transit and the PATH train system, which he helps control, versus how much to spend on helping people rebuild homes, including those near beaches that inevitably will flood again.

He can make it clear that these decisions are important because money from Washington is not free — and it will never be enough to cover New Jersey’s losses.

And he can show, over the next two years, that he can finish the projects he chooses on time and on budget — obsessing less, as Cuomo is doing, about how much he can get from Washington and focusing, instead, on whether he spends it properly.

Sandy offers long-term lessons, too. In New York, Cuomo is playing to a national audience about climate change.

A different long-term lesson Christie should be absorbing, and one that he can actually do something about now: Sandy pointed out that transit infrastructure is important, too.

With NJ Transit trains still running at less than half-capacity three weeks after the storm, people are suffering through three-hour commutes.

But that’s an extreme example of what the future will look like, even in good times, if New Jersey fails to invest in new transit capacity after the state repairs what was broken. Christie could revisit the ARC project to build a new rail tunnel to New York, pledging to work with Obama once again get it done quickly and right.

There’s no shame in changing when the facts change, as Christie showed when he embraced the president.

Original Source:



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