New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) raised eyebrows among Republicans last year, when he heartily embraced President Obama in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which hit shore just days before the presidential election.
The appearance came while other top Republicans were gathering in Washington, D.C., for Ralph Reed's annual Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, an illustration of the basic tension facing the New Jersey governor: appeasing both voters in his traditionally Democratic home state while minding the dyed-in-the-wool conservatives who dominate the Republican nominating process.
Clinton and Christie recognized the high-wire political act, with the former president joking that the governor was "consorting with a leper."
But the duo heaped praise on one another, with Clinton applauding the way Christie navigated New Jersey through the aftermath of the storm.
"We need to redefine leadership beyond how you just respond to an emergency to how you keep emergencies from happening, and he's done a good job," Clinton said.
Clinton told Christie that while he got "praise and damnation for ignoring the political differences you had and still have with the president," his efforts to prepare his state for future disasters should win bipartisan support.
"We've got to stop waiting for something horrible to happen and then spend ten times as much," Clinton said.
Christie agreed that disaster preparedness and response could unify Americans across party lines.
"This is one of those things that I think, regardless of where you fall on the ideological spectrum, this is government's job," Christie said.
"There are no partisan lines on this one when it happens, you reach out to everyone you can."
The respectful conversation at times turned wonky, with the pair waxing philosophical about the challenges and rewards of governance.
"I think governors are practical folks most of the time and they're trying to deal with the practical problems that are in front of them," Christie said.