For President Barack Obama, good governance is also good politics.
Four days before Election Day, Obama showed solid leadership during a national crisis. While Hurricane Sandy’s deadly storm devastated coastal towns and left much of New York City and Long Island, New York waterlogged and without power, Obama was the nation’s anchor in the storm.
Hurricane Sandy, the most powerful weather system to hit the East Coast, presented an unexpected yet defining moment for Obama.
The president was able to navigate a thicket where politics and governing collide. In the midst of an extremely close presidential race, Obama stayed off the campaign trail for two days speaking to the governors of the storm’s impacted states and making sure the government’s relief efforts were swift and seamless.
By Thursday, the U.S. death toll from Sandy had climbed to 88. Obama wasn’t campaigning earlier this week, but he was earning valuable praise for his unflappable response to a natural catastrophe.
The president was cool under pressure – and the nation knew it.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, seems to be Obama’s newest best friend. Christie couldn’t say enough great things about Obama’s handling of Sandy, particularly for the state of New Jersey.
”I’m pleased to report that he has sprung into action to help get us those things immediately,” Christie said during a press conference this week. “It’s been a great working relationship to make sure that were doing the job people elected us to do. I cannot thank the president enough.
In a strange turn of events, with the election only days away, Christie’s remarks were almost tantamount to an endorsement.
It’s rare for a high-profile Republican governor to compliment Obama and it’s even more unusual for Christie to heap praise on Obama a week before the presidential election. Christie has probably spent more time thanking Obama and less time talking about Mitt Romney, his GOP comrade, which has some Republicans grumbling that Christie isn’t a team player.
What Christie knows well is this old adage: All politics is local. For Christie, who had hundreds of thousands of citizens in crisis, he needed immediate help from the federal government and Obama was there to deliver. The residents of New Jersey, some who had homes destroyed and many who are still in shelters, are also voters and Christie wants to stay on their good side.
And the compliments flowed both ways.
“At the top of my list, I have to say that Gov. Christie throughout this process has been responsive,” Obama said at a press conference. “He’s been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm and I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.”
“So,” Obama added, “I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.”
Will Obama’s shining example of leadership help him close the deal with undecided voters? And will Christie’s new friendship with Obama sway independents that are still on the fence?