Gov. Chris Christie (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Gov. Chris Christie (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

The folks at The Fix are smart lot. And quick, too. They beat me to a smart take on why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) opted to spend time with former president Bill Clinton in Chicago today rather than with conservative Republicans gathering here in Washington this weekend. It all has to do with 2013.

Yeah, yeah, every move Christie makes has folks focused on how it might impact his standing within the party assuming he’s going to run for president in 2016. But as The Fix writes today and as I said last night on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” you need to view his actions with a bit more nearsightedness. Christie is a red governor who is up for reelection in a deep blue state.

President George H.W. Bush was the last Republican to win New Jersey. And President Obama won it in 2012 by almost 18 percent of the vote. So, Christie wrapping Obama in a rhetorical bear hug makes perfect sense. As does his basking in the reflective light of Clinton to talk about leadership. Yet, all these displays of bipartisanship come with distinct liabilities for the slow-jamming governor. Chief among them being mounting distrust among the GOP conservative base.

But here are three things Christie might be hoping will happen between now and when he has to make a decision about 2016.

1.) A massive electoral blowout against Democratic opponent Barbara Buono, majority leader of the New Jersey State Senate. This would bolster his standing as a Republican governor not to be messed with. Calling the U.S. Senate election on a day two weeks before his own November date with voters helps himself out on this score a great deal.

2.) Middling 2014 midterm elections for the GOP. Depending on how things go, a Republican Party tired of losing consequential elections could turn its gaze away from the doctrinaire far-right folks littering Washington and towards leaders for whom bipartisanship is not an expletive and governing is a core competency.

3.) Amnesia. By the time candidates start running for the Republican presidential nomination, Christie will have been in his second gubernatorial term for a year and a half. That’s plenty of time for him to reassert whatever conservative credentials he has left in an effort to erase their memories of his apostasies on the way to reelection in 2013.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.