Two weeks ago, as New Jersey was still very much in the midst of a post-Sandy crisis, Fox News' Rupert Murdoch insisted that Gov. Chris Christie (R) "re-declare" his support for Mitt Romney. The New York Timesreports today that the governor took this quite seriously.
A few days after Hurricane Sandy shattered the shores of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie picked up the phone to take on a different kind of recovery work: taming the Republican Party fury over his effusive embrace of President Obama.
On Nov. 3, Mr. Christie called Rupert Murdoch, the influential News Corporation chief and would-be kingmaker, who had warned in a biting post on Twitter that the governor might be responsible for Mr. Obama's re-election.
Mr. Christie told Mr. Murdoch that amid the devastation, New Jersey needed friends, no matter their political party, according to people briefed on the discussion. But Mr. Murdoch was blunt: Mr. Christie risked looking like a spoiler unless he publicly affirmed his support for Mitt Romney, something the governor did the next day.
In case we needed a reminder about Christie's ambitions, and the power of Fox News, this ought to do the trick.
The political pushback from the right after Christie praised the president was fairly predictable, and Murdoch's public demands were par for the course, but the key here is that the New Jersey governor took the time to reach out to Murdoch directly, and then actually did as the Fox News chief demanded.
Of course, as the rest of the NYT piece makes clear, the right isn't even close to satisfied. It is now "conventional wisdom" among Republicans that the governor's praise of Obama "influenced the outcome" of the presidential race, and Christie continues to feel intense pressure for his public comments about the president's response to the storm.
The tensions followed Mr. Christie to the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Las Vegas last week. At a gathering where he had expected to be celebrated, Mr. Christie was repeatedly reminded of how deeply he had offended fellow Republicans. [...]
His willingness to work closely with the president has cast a shadow over Mr. Christie's prospects as a national candidate, prompting a number of Republicans to wonder aloud whether he is a reliable party leader.
"It hurt him a lot," said Douglas E. Gross, a longtime Republican operative in Iowa who has overseen several presidential campaigns in the state. "The presumption is that Republicans can't count on him." Republican voters in Iowa, the first state to select presidential candidates, "don't forget things like this," Mr. Gross said.
It seems crazy to think this could undermine Christie's national ambitions, but Republican politics in the 21st century can be strikingly rigid and unforgiving.