President Obama joined Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday to tour the devastation of Hurricane Sandy that annihilated the New Jersey coastline. The image that emerged was one of bipartisan leadership for both politicians—all in the crucial days before the election.
The president toured the ruins of Atlantic City where the ringing and bells of landmark casinos were silenced by the storm. The hurricane—in Atlantic City’s case aptly named Sandy—sunk the city’s famous boardwalk in debris, forcing residents out in mandatory evacuations.
“You guys are in my thoughts and prayers. Obviously, the top priority right now is to get the power back on,” Obama told residents. “We’re going to not tolerate any red tape. We’re not going to tolerate any bureaucracy. We’re going to make sure that we get the help to you as quickly as we can.”
New Jersey bared much of the brunt of the storm’s wrath, leaving an estimated 2.4 million without power. The president’s destination of Atlantic City is particularly noteworthy given Christie’s infighting with Mayor Lorenzo Langford, a Democrat, over the city’s handling of the storm.
The president’s photo-op moment with the Republican governor who headlined the party’s convention this year, comes with just under a week until Election Day. Christie, an ardent critic of Obama and supporter of Mitt Romney, said during the convention that the president was the “most ill-prepared person to assume the presidency in my lifetime.”
Christie, however, exchanged his criticisms for acclaim of the president’s leadership in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Known as a brazen and candid politician, the New Jersey governor lauded Obama with praises on Morning Joe Tuesday, saying he had to “give the president great credit.”
“It’s really important to have the president of the United States acknoweldge all the suffering that’s going on here in New Jersey and I appreciate it very much,” Christie said during the tour on Wednesday. “We’re going to work together to make sure we get ourselves through this crisis and get everything back to normal.”
Obama returned the praise, saying the New Jersey governor was “working overtime” for his residents.
As for a Garden State visit from Romney, the current leader of Christie’s party and the man he’s been on the stump with for months, Christie said he is not the “least bit concerned or interested.” Romney is now campaigning in Florida after holding political event in Ohio disguised as a “storm relief rally.” Since the storm, Romney has avoided any questions pertaining to his stance on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency he once vowed to level.
Wednesday marks the third day in Obama’s pause from campaigning in what has been called his “commander-in-chief moment,” showing off his leadership in an empathetic light. A similar photo-op for George W. Bush provided the former president a boost to his 2004 re-election efforts with an image of Bush’s consoling bear hug for the grieving young girl whose mother was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that was brandished in voters’ minds.