ASBURY PARK, New Jersey (AP) — President Barack Obama toured sites along the New Jersey shore hit hard by last year’s Superstorm Sandy Tuesday together with popular Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
The visit reprises the remarkable bipartisan tableau they offered during Sandy’s immediate aftermath when Obama flew to New Jersey just days before the November presidential election to witness the storm’s wreckage.
Obama spoke alongside Republican Gov. Chris Christie in Asbury Park, seven months after Sandy bore down, causing $38 billion in damage.
Obama says the job of repairing the damage isn’t done. He says he came back to New Jersey in part to show he’s still committed to putting the federal government to making the Jersey Shore stronger and more resilient than it was before.
“You are stronger than the storm,” Obama said. “After you’ve all you’ve dealt with, after all you’ve been through, the Jersey Shore is back and it is open for business.”
Politically, the visit plays well for both men. Christie, a potential presidential candidate and popular governor who is seeking re-election this year, will stand shoulder to shoulder with a president popular among Democrats in a Democratic-leaning state. And Obama, dueling with congressional Republicans on a number of fronts, gets to display common cause with a Republican stalwart.
The trip gives Obama a chance to showcase the federal government’s widely praised response to the storm that ravaged the East Coast at a time when attention has focused on the federal tax collection agency and its targeting of conservative groups. The president also gets to draw attention to the kind of bipartisanship that has been harder to find in the U.S. capital.
The visit occurs as Congress is away for a holiday break, a weeklong recess that likely will silence the daily attention lawmakers, particularly Republicans, had been paying to the political upheaval at the Internal Revenue Service as well as the ongoing debate about the fatal attacks at a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year and investigations of media leaks that have stirred opposition from the media and many lawmakers.
It also comes just days after Obama started seeking to change the subject in Washington with a speech defending his controversial program of strikes by unmanned drones and renewing his push to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On Sunday, Obama traveled to Moore, Oklahoma, to view damage from the recent tornado and console victims of the deadly storm.
For Christie, Obama’s appearance is yet another way to highlight his beloved Jersey Shore’s revival.
Christie has been touting it throughout the Memorial Day holiday weekend as a destination point that is back in business, and he broke a Guinness World record Friday by cutting a 5.5- mile (8.85-kilometer) ceremonial ribbon that symbolically tied together some of the towns hardest-hit by Sandy. The state has a $25 million marketing campaign to highlight the shore’s resurgence in time for the summer season.
Christie, in an interview with NBC TV on Friday, played down the politics, even when asked whether ties to Obama could hurt him among conservatives if he were to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
“The fact of the matter is, he’s the president of the United States, and he wants to come here and see the people of New Jersey,” Christie said. “I’m the governor. I’ll be here to welcome him.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.