How will Sandy impact Chris Christie's political future?

President Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon his arrival at Atlantic City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Atlantic City, N.J. Obama traveled to the region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic Coast in New Jersey in areas damaged by superstorm Sandy. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Chris Christie, Barack Obama
President Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon his arrival at Atlantic City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Atlantic City, NJ.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

After Superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Monday said President Obama "deserves great credit" for his response to the storm, calling the administration's cooperation with the state government "outstanding." It was a far cry from his keynote address at the Republican National Convention this August, when Christie decried the "era of absentee leadership" in the Obama White House.

But for those who know Christie, his praise for the president this week made perfect sense: "He's quintessential New Jersey: he speaks his mind, he tells it like it is," longtime New Jersey Republican strategist Roger Bodman told CBSNews.com.

Christie's frank and outspoken approach to politics has earned him nationwide notoriety and has kept up his reputation in New Jersey, even as his state's economy continues to struggle. His response to the storm, including his tour of the affected areas today with Mr. Obama, adds another layer to his legacy as governor and a level of complexity to his future political prospects.

Christie, for his part, has dismissed any talk of politics as he manages the state's response to the crisis, even with Election Day a week away. In an interview on Fox News, Christie brushed off the question of whether Mitt Romney would visit the impacted areas of New Jersey.

"I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested," he responded. "I've got a job to do here in New Jersey that's much bigger than presidential politics, and I could [not] care less about any of that stuff."

Whether he's thinking of politics or not, Christie's fervent response to the crisis, and his clear willingness to work with the Democratic president, could reassure New Jersey voters that he deserves to be re-elected next year.

Christie has remained popular in the state, the most recent polls show: In an Oct. 17 Quinnipiac poll, 56 percent of New Jersey registered voters said they approved of his job performance while just 38 percent disapproved. That's in spite of the fact that the unemployment in New Jersey reached 9.8 percent in September, leaving it with the fourth worst jobless rate in the country.

The governor's continued popularity, Bodman said, "has to do with his leadership style. You may not agree with this guy, but a lot of my very dear, very Democratic friends... appreciate his leadership, his straight talk, and there's a lot to be said for that."

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