The political damage from Chris Christie's Hurricane Hug of Barack Obama continues, The New York Times reports.
But behind the scenes, the intensity of the reaction from those in Mr. Christie’s party caught him by surprise, interviews show, requiring a rising Republican star to try to contain a tempest that left him feeling deeply misunderstood and wounded.
Meanwhile, Romney donors and aides continue to anonymously rip him, and conservative activists aren't exactly feeling supercalifragilisticexpialidocious about it, either (emphasis added).
“It hurt him a lot,” said Douglas E. Gross, a longtime Republican operative in Iowa who has overseen several presidential campaigns in the state. “The presumption is that Republicans can’t count on him.”
Republican voters in Iowa, the first state to select presidential candidates, “don’t forget things like this,” Mr. Gross said.
Inside the Romney campaign, there is little doubt that Mr. Christie’s expressions of admiration for the president, coupled with ubiquitous news coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath, raised Mr. Obama’s standing at a crucial moment.
During a lengthy autopsy of their campaign, Mr. Romney’s political advisers pored over data showing 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.
“Christie,” a Romney adviser said, “allowed Obama to be president, not a politician.”
I wrote about this last week, but here's the gist: A lot of Christie defenders say voters have short memories, and, true, maybe your neighbor does, but activists don't, and activists are the ones making most the decisions in the primaries.
A lot of Christie defenders also say that any party that can nominate a guy who dreamed up RomneyCare can nominate a guy who gave a hug. Possibly. But RomneyCare didn't potentially blow an election. Christie's hug might have, and even if it didn't, perception rules.
The saving grace for the governor might be his communication skills, which are so downright awesome that it's easy to image him tearing down the haters in a townhall and following up with something that rekindles the love. Charlie Crist (who also had a famous hug buffet him) never had that kind of potential.