President Barack Obama is looking to get his groove back – at the beach.
A post-Hurricane Sandy tour of the New Jersey coastline on Tuesday gives the President a chance for a three-point play that can move him ahead of the recent controversies that have dogged the White House. With New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie at Mr. Obama’s side, effective government, bipartisanship and economic opportunity will be the unmistakable message in the face of the coastal recovery.
For Mr. Obama, the tour helps him continue redirecting the political conversation after two weeks of dealing with the fallout over the administration’s response to terror attacks last September in Benghazi, the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, and the Justice Department’s review of journalists’ phone records as part of a leak investigation.
For Mr. Christie, the President’s appearance is yet another way to showcase his beloved Jersey Shore. The Republican has been touting it throughout the Memorial Day weekend as a destination point that is back in business. He broke a Guinness world record Friday by cutting a nearly nine-kilometre-long ceremonial ribbon that symbolically tied together some of the towns hit hardest by Sandy. The state has a $25-million marketing campaign to highlight the shore’s resurgence in time for the summer season.
Both men will reprise the remarkable bipartisan tableau they offered during Sandy’s immediate aftermath when Mr. Obama flew to New Jersey just days before the election to witness the storm’s wreckage.
Mr. Christie, in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on Friday, played down the politics, even when asked if ties to Mr. Obama could hurt him among conservatives if he were to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
“The fact of the matter is, he’s the President of the United States, and he wants to come here and see the people of New Jersey,” Mr. Christie said. “I’m the Governor. I’ll be here to welcome him.”
To be sure, New Jersey is still rebuilding. Mr. Obama is visiting those regions that have been among the first to recover. Mr. Christie ranks the recovery of the state’s famous boardwalks as an 8 on a scale of 10, but concedes that, in other parts of the state, many homeowners are still rebuilding six months after the devastating superstorm struck.
Over all, the storm caused $38-billion in damages in the state, and harmed or wrecked 360,000 homes or apartment units.