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Chris Christie: Climate change a 'distraction'

New Jersey Gov.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was soaking up the revelry around the Jersey Shore’s post-Hurricane Sandy reopening this Memorial Day, ceremoniously cutting a monstrous ribbon and leading President Obama and packs of cameras around the boardwalk.

Christie's handling of the superstorm earned him bipartisan praise and record-high popularity, but now almost eight months out since Sandy struck New Jersey's coast, Christie's response to the storm is taking shape on political sides.

NBC's Matt Lauer recently asked Christie about the relationship between the storm and climate change, and the governor responded, “I haven’t been shown any definitive proof yet that that’s what caused it. And this is just, listen, this is a distraction. I’ve got a place to rebuild here and people want to talk to me about esoteric theories.”

Christie saw a major boost in approval ratings after Sandy. His numbers in New Jersey jumped from 56% in October to 74% in February. It now stands at 69%, still a high number for a Republican governor -- and the Republican National Convention's keynote speaker --  in a state that President Obama won by more than 17 points in 2012. Part of Christie's boost can be attributed to when he famously surveyed the damage with President Obama after the storm, praised the president’s swift response, and even called a press conference in January for the sole purpose of blasting House Republicans who refused to vote for a Sandy relief bill.

On All In Tuesday night, msnbc host Chris Hayes underscored these recent climate change comments as the moment where Christie takes a step back toward the Republican base and possible national aspirations.

“With his approval ratings high and his political strength in New Jersey shored up, his challenge right now is not governing, but beginning to remember how to tell the Republican base everything they want to hear,” said Hayes. “And it’s looking like climate denialism is going to be central to that strategy.”

Christie’s likely Democratic opponent will be State Senator Barbara Buono in November’s gubernatorial election.

Watch Hayes discuss Christie’s comments with Hurricane relief consultant and Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center Director James Perry and The Nation’s Executive Editor Richard Kim in the player above.