News Column

Obama, Christie Praise NJ Recovery

May 29, 2013

Just a couple of guys on a boardwalk in Jersey.

President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie renewed their odd-couple political partnership Tuesday, touring boardwalk shops and arcades that have been rebuilt in the seven months since Superstorm Sandy tore through the coastline.

"The Jersey Shore is back and it is open for business," Obama told residents, adding, "We all understand there's still a lot of work to be done."

Christie told constituents that though he's "thrilled" with the progress that has been made since Sandy, he said he reminded Obama that many homes and businesses have not been rebuilt.

"We're going to keep on going until we finish," Obama said, and people shouldn't think "that somehow we've checked a box and we've moved on."

Earlier, the Democratic president and Republican governor -- and possible presidential candidate in 2016 -- walked the restored boardwalk at Point Pleasant on a rainy afternoon, shaking hands with residents and checking out an in-progress sand sculpture. The designer, Ed Jarrett, told the president and governor he is building the sculpture from "top to bottom." He's going for the Guinness world record for tallest sand castle as a recovery fundraiser. (He would have to top a 73-foot-7-inch sculpture recorded in China in 2010.)

The bipartisan pair then played Touchdown Fever, which involved tossing a football through suspended swinging tires. Obama went 0-for-5; Christie tossed it through on his first try, prompting a joke from the president about the governor's re-election bid in November: "That's because he's running for office," Obama said.

The arcade owner gave the president a stuffed animal -- a "Chicago bear" -- as a consolation prize.

There were no Obama-Christie hugs witnessed this time around. When the president landed at a New Jersey military base, he shook Christie's hand and landed a presidential pat on the governor's back.

Seven months ago, right after Sandy blew through, an Obama-Christie hug -- together with Christie's praise of the Obama administration's storm response -- earned the governor criticism from fellow Republicans who said it undercut GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

This tour isn't likely to mollify Christie's conservative critics, some of whom started a Twitter hashtag called "boardwalk bromance." But in his remarks on Tuesday, Christie said the health and safety of New Jersey residents "are more important than any kind of politics at all."

Obama told the crowd: "Jersey, you've still got a long road ahead, but when you look out on this beach -- this beautiful beach here, even in the rain, it looks good."

Jordan also reports for the Asbury Park Press; Jackson reported from Washington

The "boardwalk bromance" may have cooled (no hugs this time between the bipartisan duo) as President Obama tours Point Pleasant, N.J.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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