President Barack Obama won glowing praise for his “wonderful” handling of superstorm Sandy Tuesday from a fierce foe who backs Mitt Romney, as political reverberations of the storm began to be felt.
Mr. Obama put campaigning on hold a week before his close election clash with Republican nominee Romney to manage the federal government’s response to Sandy, which swamped large areas of the U.S. East Coast.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a blunt critic of the president and a key Romney ally, early Tuesday produced a glowing character reference for Mr. Obama, which is already shaping endgame election news coverage.
“The president’s been great... I spoke to him three times yesterday, he called me for the last time at midnight last night, he asked me what I needed,” Mr. Christie told MSNBC.
Mr. Christie, a brash political brawler known for cutting take-downs of opponents including Mr. Obama, said that he asked the president to cut through bureaucratic “mumbo jumbo” and help New Jersey, and he “got on it.”
“The president has been all over this, he deserves great credit … He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it.
”It’s been very good working with the president, and his administration has been co-ordinating with us great – it’s been wonderful.”
The praise from Mr. Christie, who is mentioned as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate should Mr. Romney lose, represented the kind of publicity a campaign, for all its hundreds of millions of dollars, cannot buy.
Sandy, which dominated news coverage and drowned out the normal frenzy of the last week of an election campaign, amounted to an ”October Surprise” – the kind of unpredictable event that can reshape late stages of elections.
Its impact on voting next week was unclear, but the storm allowed Mr. Obama to leverage the power of incumbency by marshaling the full force of the U.S. federal government to help those in need.
Mr. Romney meanwhile will likely struggle to get news coverage, and he had to turn scheduled political events by the candidate and his wife Ann in Wisconsin and Ohio into storm relief efforts to collect donations for storm victims.
Obama had been due to travel to Colorado and Wisconsin on Tuesday, but wiped out his campaign schedule and it is unclear when he will resume.
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