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latimes.com

Chris Christie and Hurricane Sandy give Obama a timely boost

By David Horsey

11:50 PM PDT, October 31, 2012

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On his Comedy Central show Wednesday night, Stephen Colbert charged that hurricanes have a liberal bias -- and who can disagree? Katrina sank President George W. Bush, Isaac knocked a day off the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and now Sandy may be messing with Mitt.

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, one of the Romney campaign's top surrogates has been standing before microphones and going on TV to rain praise on President Obama. Yes, Chris Christie, New Jersey's Republican governor, the guy who gave the keynote address in Tampa, has suddenly gotten all nonpartisan merely because his state has been devastated by a super storm. Where are his priorities?

Christie and the president toured the disaster scene together, looking and talking like a mutual admiration society and giving the distinct impression that they believe a national emergency is far more important than a presidential campaign. What’s a guy like Romney supposed to do with that with less than a week to go before election day?

What he did do was cancel a "victory rally" in Ohio -- although it really was not canceled; it was just rebranded as a gathering to support the storm relief effort. Oddly enough, the event still featured a Romney campaign video from the GOP convention. Even more odd was the fact that Romney’s staff reportedly bought $5,000 worth of granola bars and canned goods at a nearby Wal-Mart, which they parceled out to attendees at the rally with instructions to hand the items to Romney as the TV cameras captured the moment.

Romney said the supplies would be trucked to someplace in New Jersey, even though the Red Cross says random shipments of food create a logistical headache for relief workers. Maybe they can dump them at Christie’s house after he is done hanging out with Obama.

In the course of this presidential campaign we have learned that Romney does one thing really well -- he can debate like a champ. Beyond that, though, he is often the embodiment of awkward. Trying to disguise a campaign rally as a hurricane relief event is just a big reminder of pre-debate Romney, the fellow who nearly scuttled his own campaign in September with one misstep after another.

Meanwhile, Obama is getting the chance to appear compassionate, effective and, thanks to Christie, above politics. Looking presidential may only sway a few votes his way, but in a race that is going to the wire, just a few can make all the difference. 

In every election, political junkies watch for an October surprise that might alter the dynamics of the election. This year, the surprise may have come in the form of a massively destructive storm. Pat Robertson and the religious right seem to find messages from God in every hurricane. If this one boosts Obama, they will have to do a serious reassessment of that idea. They may deduce that, like hurricanes, God has a liberal bias.