The political odd couple is back.
President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were reunited on Tuesday as the commander-in-chief toured areas of the Garden State that were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy last October. The trip comes as Obama tries to distance himself from a trio of political controversies that have dogged both him and the White House this month—the IRS scandal, Benghazi, and the Department of Justice subpoenaing the phone records of journalists.
The Jersey trip allowed Obama to show that he’s bipartisan, the government’s recovery efforts worked, that Jersey’s economy is bouncing back and that he follows through on his promises.
“Seven months ago, I promised you that your country would have your back. I told you we would not quit until the job was done and I meant it,” said Obama in Asbury Park. He added the state’s residents have proven: “You are stronger than the storm, after all you’ve dealt with and all you’ve been through. The Jersey Shore is back and open for business.” Obama noted there are still some who haven’t seen their homes rebuilt or their businesses up and running again.
“We don’t want them to think we’ve checked a box and that we’ve moved on. That’s part of the reason I came back—to let people know we’re going to keep going,” the president said. The Category-3 storm caused approximately $38 billion in damages in the state, harmed or destroyed about 360,000 homes and apartments and left more than 2.6 million customers—some for weeks—without electricity.
Obama touted the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is now working to rebuild in Oklahoma following a deadly tornado there last week. The president toured the state on Sunday to survey the twister’s damage and to meet with victims.
Christie became cozy with the president after working with him to repair the damage wrought by the hurricane in the days leading up to the 2012 election. The Republican governor—who caught a lot of heat from his party for daring to say nice things about Obama—praised the federal response and Obama’s leadership during the natural disaster. Many even speculated Christie was snubbed from a Conservative Political Action Conference speaking slot for the close relationship with the president.
On Tuesday, Obama and Christie drove from Brielle to Point Pleasant, where they made an unannounced stop at the boardwalk. The two visited an arcade called “TouchDown Fever” and tried to win a stuffed bear by throwing a football through a tire.
Obama missed after a few tries, but Christie lobbed the ball through the tire on his first throw. Obama then gave Christie a high five and declared, “That’s because he’s running for office!” Christie, whose popularity remains high, is up for re-election for governor in November against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.
The governor told the crowd that he made sure the president understood “there’s still a lot more to do,” adding “I’m not going to let anything or anyone get between our mission to restore and recover our great state.”
Christie has gone on a media blitz this past week to tout the state’s recovery efforts as the Jersey Shore reopened for business ahead of Memorial Day. But the Republican brushed aside politics Friday when asked if his ties to Obama could hurt him among conservatives if he does run for president in 2016.
“The fact of the matter is, he’s the president of the United States,” said Christie on NBC’s Today. “And he wants to come here and see the people of New Jersey. I’m the governor. I’ll be here to welcome him.”