Thursday, November 1, 2012


President Obama joins forces with NJ Gov. Chris Christie in aftermath of storm

The two toured parts of the Garden State to see the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. But Christie, a critic of Obama and supporter of Romney, had high praise for the President's response.

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Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012, 11:22 PM











 U.S. President Barack Obama (R) is greeted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie after he arrives at Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey before surveying Hurricane Sandy damage, October 31, 2012.

Larry Downing/REUTERS

President Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after he arrives at Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey on Wednesday.

Talk about an October Surprise.

Just six days before the election, the nation saw President Obama joining with a fierce critic, Republican Gov. Chris Christie, to inspect the coastal carnage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the Jersey Shore.

With the presidential election drum tight, images of the Democratic President doing the people’s business alongside one of Mitt Romney's superstar supporters presented a picture of bipartisanship Obama's handlers back in Chicago couldn’t have choreographed in their wildest dreams.
RELATED: OBAMA AND ROMNEY CAMPAIGNS CHARGE AHEAD POST-SANDY

Christie – who for weeks has criticized Obama has a failed leader – was waiting on the tarmac at the Atlantic City airport when Obama descended the stairs of Air Force One at 1:13 p.m. They shook hands warmly, Obama patting the governor on the shoulder. Both clad in navy-blue jackets, they quickly boarded Marine One for an aerial inspection of Sandy’s fury.

For the next four hours, the political Odd Couple toured once-thriving beach communities, consoled residents who’d lost everything, saw boats turned on end, heard tales of heroism and vowed that politics would be ignored to rebuild lives and livelihoods

"He has sprung into action immediately. ... I think this is our sixth conversation since the weekend, and it's been a great working relationship," Christie said of the President, after the two men surveyed the wreckage at a Brigantine marina.

"I cannot thank the President enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state. I heard it on the phone conversations with him and I was able to witness it today personally."

The admiration was mutual.

"I have to say that Governor Christie throughout this process has been responsive; he has been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm," Obama said.

"And I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. So I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership."

Obama's political aides didn’t want to appear to be capitalizing on a catastrophe, but there was little argument from campaign headquarters that Sandy handed Obama a legitimate if tragic opportunity to “look presidential” before Americans go to the polls.

It’s too soon to assess the electoral impact of Wednesday's events, but “it never hurts for a President to be taking charge at a moment of national trauma,” an Obama strategist said.

Romney sources told the Daily News they were furious with Christis’s effusive praise of Obama’s management of the crisis when the governor appeared in a round-robin of network television interviews on Tuesday. The sources said they passed along their irritation to Christie subordinates in Trenton.

“He went overboard,” a Romney official said. “His own people have told him that today. There’s a fine line between being grateful and pandering.” In Team Romney’s view, Christie crossed that line.

Wednesday, however, he got more of a pass from the same critics – privately assured, they reported, that the governor would be a little more judicious with his praise.

“I don’t blame him for putting the election out of his mind and I don’t think this has anything to do with (Christie potentially) running (for President) in 2016,” a key Romney aide said. “His game is his state just had the worst disaster in its history and needs a ton of government money for years to come."

“If I were him I might kiss the President’s ass, too.”

Still, the pairing of Christie and Obama on Wednesday overshadowed Romney's campaign events.

“It’s a good news day for the President,” a top Romney adviser admitted, “but people think anybody else in that position would do the same thing. I don’t think it hurts our momentum. So far, the storm hasn’t slowed us down.”

With Joseph Straw
tdefrank@nydailynews.com
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