When one thinks of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, acrobatics might not be the first term that comes to mind.

But if rumors are true and the booming Republican governor does indeed plan to seek the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, he’ll need to perform an impressive circus trick: both building off the centrist support he’s earned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and repairing relations with an increasingly skeptical Republican base that sees his embrace of President Obama just days before the election as a betrayal.

The past week has only crystallized the challenge for Christie, with a much-ballyhooed appearance on Saturday Night Live earning him widespread scorn across the conservative press. “Christie clowns on SNL as residents suffer,” a banner headline on the influential Drudge Report website read.