Once again, Barack Obama has proven to be the luckiest politician alive.
Just when the race was tightening to a dead heat in the election’s closing days, one spectacular betrayal and one rank miscalculation on the Republican side have turned the contest back in Obama’s favor.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who will tour his storm-ravaged state today with President Obama, was all over the networks Tuesday telling what a wonderful leader his president was.
“I spoke to the president three times yesterday,” Christie boasted, calling Obama “outstanding.” When Fox co-host Steve Doocy meekly asked Christie if he planned any events with Romney, Christie snarkily replied, “I have no idea nor am I the least bit concerned or interested.”
Christie’s caper, of course, is so opportunist that it almost makes Mitt Romney look principled—almost. What a swell party of back-stabbers is our GOP.
For Christie, who is up for re-election next year in a blue state, this caper accomplishes three things: It portrays him as a bipartisan; provides extensive publicity in service of his image as a good leader in a crisis; and hoses away Mitt Romney, the better to position Christie for a presidential run in 2016.
Of course, if Christie thinks he has a snowball’s chance of being the Republican nominee, he is delusional. Republicans will never forgive Christie for this act of high treason. Assuming Romney loses, the 2016 nomination belongs to Paul Ryan, probably by acclamation. Christie has a better shot at being appointed by Obama to head FEMA.
But no matter. Big Chris takes things one day at a time.
This week’s perfect storm could have gone either way for Obama. Christie’s sly maneuver makes Sandy a big win for the president. Romney was reduced to handing out soup cans with one hand, and grasping voters with the other.
The other piece of decisive self-inflicted Republican damage that helps Obama is the astonishing Romney big lie on the auto rescue—the claim that Chrysler is preparing to move Jeep jobs to China, carried in TV ads broadcast in Ohio. Executives of both GM and Chrysler quickly branded the claim a total fabrication.
This is what my lefty friends used to fantasize about, “splits in the ruling class”—top automakers in open conflict with a Republican nominee who is himself the son of a president of a car company. It doesn’t get much better.
Amazingly, after the news media relentlessly covered the flagrant falsehood, the Romney campaign doubled down with radio ads repeating the charge.
This morning, The New York Times was out with new polls, showing Obama narrowly ahead in Florida and Virginia, and widening his projected lead to five points in Ohio.
But here in Massachusetts, where I live, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is sweating out the final days. A new WBUR poll Monday showed the race tied, after most polls had shown Warren up four of five points.
Another poll by Suffolk University shows Warren widening her lead, but most pols around here say the race is tightening to about a 2-3 point lead for Warren. (The estimable Nate Silver, who has put the odds of a Warren win at 95-to-5, is too optimistic.) Warren will probably pull through based on her amazing ground operation, which includes some 70,000 well-organized volunteers.
But why, in deep blue Massachusetts, is this race even close?
One reason is the damage done by Republican Scott Brown’s relentless attack ads.
The other is President Obama’s slipping lead. Warren’s cushion was always the premise that the president would carry the Bay State by close to 300,000 voters and there just weren’t that many people here who would vote for Obama and then turn around and vote for Scott Brown.
That slippage is an echo of Obama’s slippage nationally. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, in his recent profile of Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, makes Messina sound like a political genius for his strategy of spending a lot of money in the spring and summer on early TV spots to define Romney as a bad guy.
But all it took was one better-than-expected debate performance by Romney to blow the strategy away. Obama may have been suffering from altitude sickness in Denver that day. But his closing remarks, which were obviously scripted and memorized, suggest that the problem was more attitude sickness—the strategy of seeming presidential and not deigning to fight.
Once again, however, Republican overreach is likely to save Obama from himself (and his handlers). The ancient Greeks used to say that character is fate. The character of the Republican Party is rank opportunism. It is hard to get more opportunist than Romney’s Jeep ad, but Chris Christie achieves it. These guys deserve each other—and America deserves better.