The plaudits that the president and Chris Christie exchanged post-Sandy benefited both sides. Obama got a non-endorsement endorsement from an influential Republican just before Election Day; Christie scored points with New Jersey Democrats who’ve contributed to his sky-high approval rating. What would help the White House much more, though, is a Republican ally in the Senate, where a single backer can give cover to fellow party members (as well as red-state Democrats). Here, three GOP senators who may have reason to play nice:
PAT TOOMEY, PA
A strong performance in the politically moderate Philadelphia suburbs was essential when Toomey won his seat by 2 points in 2010: He received 49 percent of the area’s votes, but would have found himself in a recount had he drawn the 44.6 percent Mitt Romney garnered. The importance of the Philly ’burbs to his reelection prospects might explain why Toomey, a staunch economic conservative, co-sponsored the gun-control legislation that was narrowly defeated in April—and why he could also be willing to find common ground with the White House on a priority like education.
MARK KIRK, IL
Kirk is another blue-state Republican who won by 2 points in 2010—in his case, defeating a flawed opponent dogged by coverage of loans that his family’s bank made to alleged mobsters. Kirk has already drifted from the GOP line on gun control, same-sex marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and infrastructure, and he supported cap-and-trade as a congressman before changing his position when he moved to the upper chamber. The numbers suggest Kirk may be amenable to further bipartisan pushes: If he decides to run for a second term, he’ll need to win as many as 500,000 Obama voters to succeed.
KELLY AYOTTE, NH
Ayotte won her seat in a blowout in 2010, triumphing by 23 points in a state that has gone Democratic in five of the past six presidential elections. During her first two years in the Senate, she has adopted few heterodox positions. But since her vote against background checks for gun buyers, Ayotte’s approval rating has been below 50 percent in every survey. After opposing any amnesty for undocumented immigrants as a candidate, she recently endorsed the immigration-reform package her colleagues are hammering out. There’s a chance she could be due for a reversal on gun control or other issues.
Nate Cohn is a staff writer at The New Republic.