New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greets President Barack Obama on Wednesday as he arrives in Atlantic City to check the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais~AP
Updated: December 6, 2012 6:10AM
Three Republican governors. Three people President Barack Obama can thank if he pulls off a razor-thin victory on Tuesday:
Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, and Scott Walker up Wisconsin way.
Wittingly, or unwittingly, these swing-state chief executives are helping Obama make a case for a second term.
After Hurricane Sandy wrought devastation in New Jersey and neighboring states, Obama pulled out every presidential stop to offer massive aid and comfort.
New Jersey big man Chris Christie morphed from an Obama hater into his biggest cheerleader.
It was quite a turn for Christie, the bombastic surrogate for GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Just a week before, Christie had blasted Obama as a do-nothing lightweight.
“He’s like a man wandering around a dark room, hands up against the wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership, and he just can’t find it,” the governor bleated at a campaign rally in Richmond, Va.
Since Sandy swept through, Christie has been on Obama like a swooning suitor. The odd couple toured the devastation and Christie went on national TV to laud Obama’s response as “outstanding.”
Obama had given him his phone number, and said call anytime, he gushed. “The president has been all over this, and he deserves great credit.”
First Republicans went into shock. Then into a snit.
“How could he?”
Is Christie miffed that Romney passed him over as a VP pick?
Is he cozying up to Obama to keep the federal disaster funds coming?
My bet: The hyper-ambitious Christie is positioning himself as a moderate, bipartisan poster boy for the 2016 presidential election.
At the Republican National Convention in August, Ohio’s John Kasich used his coveted speaking slot to turn Obama’s lemons into lemonade.
Kasich, another presidential wannabe who took office in 2011, fiercely touted Ohio’s economic recovery. “When we came into office, we were 48th in job creation,” he declared in Tampa. “You know where we are today? We’re fourth in America in job creation and number one in the Midwest.”
In July, he bragged about Ohio’s economy in an interview with the New York Times Magazine.
“The word is slowly and surely getting out that something is happening in Ohio that’s different,” Kasich was quoted as saying.
And Obama is out there, delighted to take the credit.
Such talk is sure to undercut Romney’s doom-and-gloom message in must-win Ohio.
Last spring, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his allies spent millions to beat back a historic recall. He kept his office, but he handed another plum to the enemy.
“Nearly $59 million of pro-Walker advertising leading up to June’s recall vote hardened the right-track perception in this Midwest state,” the Associated Press reported last month.
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate stands at 7.3 percent, below the national average.
Walker, a rising GOP star, may have quashed the Democrats and liberal unions, but his bragging rights may backfire and score a key electoral win for Obama.
In politics, ego plus ambition can be a winning combination. Sometimes, for the other side.