President Obama was out on the campaign trail yesterday with his new friend, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Sorry, scratch that, Obama announced he was suspending the campaign and his spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that "this is not a time for politics." So what we saw yesterday was a Democratic and a Republican politician putting America before politics as they discussed putting New Jersey back on its feet after Hurricane Sandy. Now that's a rarity in this polarised country.
Six days before America votes in a presidential election, Obama will take all the help he can get, including from his Republican adversary, Christie, who only a few days ago was decrying the president as "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".
Americans don't like gridlock. In every opinion poll they give Congress a big thumbs down for failing to reach across the aisle in the interests of the country. Eight out of 10 likely voters have told a Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll that the president has done an "excellent" job of handling the aftermath of Sandy. Christie has echoed that view since Monday in every single TV appearance he has made.
Even yesterday, after viewing the hurricane damage from a helicopter and meeting some of the victims, Obama and Christie were heaping praise on each other.
You can be sure that the Romney campaign won't be pleased about that. Until now, Christie has been one of the former Massachusetts governor's most active spokesmen. Now he is seen as putting the future of his state above politics - as he told Fox News on Tuesday "I don't give a damn about election day" - but could also be putting down a marker.
Christie not only has a reelection campaign next year as New Jersey governor, but he has been touted as a possible Republican contender for the presidency. Although he spoke at the Republican convention in support of Romney, he hardly mentioned the name of the former governor of Massachusetts and his references to the need for leadership seemed to apply to himself.
So what happened this week in New Jersey wasn't just about the disaster. It spoke eloquently about politics. It was good for Obama (and therefore bad for Romney, confined to the sidelines), good for Christie and good for the country as a demonstration that bipartisanship has not completely vanished from the scene.Reuse content