4 years after Sandy, Christie’s plans have changed

chris-christie

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — It’s been four years since New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put on his blue fleece pullover and got to work dealing with Superstorm Sandy.

A few days after the storm made landfall in Atlantic City on Oct. 29, 2012, Christie threw presidential politics to the remnants of the wind and welcomed President Barack Obama to tour the damage at the Jersey shore. His leadership during and after the storm helped him coast to re-election in a campaign that assisted him in building a brand aimed at a 2016 presidential run.

He had hoped that by now, the fourth anniversary of the storm making landfall in New Jersey, he would be days away from voters choosing him as the 45th president.

Instead, the Republican is working for Donald Trump and his own political story has turned out much differently. This month, his approval rating was his lowest yet. The Fairleigh Dickinson University survey showed just 21 percent of registered voters surveyed approved of the job Christie was doing, while 62 percent disapproved.

A look at the four stages of Chris Christie four years since Superstorm Sandy:

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THE LEADER

Christie was front-and-center before and during the storm. Wearing his trademark blue fleece, he begged for people to get out of harm’s way, marshalled resources to respond to damage and then toured devastated areas and lent his shoulder for victims to cry on.

Even with Election Day six days away, Christie welcomed Obama to tour the damage. His friendly greeting of the president was derided by conservatives (“a hug!” they declared), but in the moment, all that mattered to Christie was getting the resources he needed to help New Jersey.

“I don’t give a damn about Election Day,” said Christie, who had campaigned heavily for Mitt Romney. “It doesn’t mean a lick to me.”

His response to the Sandy — “stronger than the storm” went the state-backed advertising campaign featuring Christie and his family — led to skyrocketed support. Nearly 70 percent of the state had a favorable impression of him in a Rutgers-Eagleton poll taken after Sandy.

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THE CAMPAIGNER

A year later, Christie won re-election by a wide margin as his political team used that campaign as a way to build bipartisan support from around the state for a potential 2016 presidential bid.

But those efforts led to one big problem: Bridgegate — a scheme in which prosecutors say Christie allies colluded to close bridge lanes and create traffic jams to punish a Democratic mayor for his refusal to endorse Christie.

Christie was never charged and a taxpayer-financed report found he had no knowledge of the lane closures. But questions about the scandal have not stopped dogging him since.

Four witnesses in the criminal trial testified that Christie knew about the lane closings either while they were going on or before telling reporters he had no knowledge.

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THE WHITE HOUSE CANDIDATE

None of that deterred Christie from his White House ambitions.

After his re-election, Christie became chairman of the Republican Governors Association, giving him an in with influential GOP members around the country.

He was considered an early front-runner, and also made a series of international trips seen as building up his commander in chief credentials.

Christie began touring the country after declaring his candidacy in June of last year, selling his brash and blunt New Jersey-guy-who-tells-it-like-it-is pitch. He spent more than 250 days either totally or partially out of his home state, costing taxpayers more than $600,000 for his mandated security detail.

While the telling-it-like-it-is mantra had long worked for Christie in his late-night TV appearances and conversations with national news media, it wasn’t enough to gain any traction in a race with a candidate like Trump.

Christie dropped out after coming in a disappointing sixth place in New Hampshire.

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THE TRUMP SUPPORTER

Two weeks later, Christie became one of the first establishment Republicans to back Trump. Christie has been standing by Trump’s side since, or in the case of a famous March news conference where social media users questioned whether he was being held hostage, right behind him.

He called Trump the best candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton and became one of his key surrogates, eventually named to lead Trump’s transition team after finishing behind Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for the vice presidential spot.

After tapes were released of Trump’s sexually aggressive comments about women, Christie said in what has become a frequent job hosting sports talk radio that the comments were “completely indefensible” but that he believed Trump was sincere in his apology.

While Christie has cut down on his public appearances with Trump, he’s still working on getting him elected.

The support could pay off big for Christie if Trump pulls out a win over Clinton. If Trump loses, though, it’s not clear what Christie’s next step will be after he leaves the governor’s office after next year.

While some political watchers wonder whether a career in sports talk radio could be next, whatever Christie does it won’t be what he was hoping for four years ago.

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