Still, in politics, popularity – particularly when it comes in the wake of a single event – can be fleeting. The real questions are: How long can Christie’s halo last? And, even if it begins to tarnish (as history suggests may be inevitable), could it still help propel him to a White House bid in 2016?
One obvious comparison is the case of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Giuliani’s popularity skyrocketed. He went being from a controversial and combative Republican in a city of mostly Democrats to “America’s Mayor,” as Oprah Winfrey famously dubbed him. He was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, and he was even knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Notably, Giuliani managed to retain that image, nationally, for some time (it may have helped that term limits put him out of the office just a few months after the 9/11 attacks, which spared him some of the subsequent fights over victims’ compensation, rebuilding, and other thorny issues).
In early 2007, Giuliani was leading all other potential GOP presidential candidates in most national polls, with his approval ratings hovering in the mid-60s among all voters, and in the 80s among Republicans. But throughout the course of the campaign, Giuliani’s poll numbers steadily dropped. His post-9/11 reputation wasn't enough in the eyes of Republican primary voters to make up for his onetime liberal positions on social issues like abortion, gay rights, and guns (as well as his own marital history).