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 Gov. Chris Christie at Obama’s side, effective government, bipartisanship and economic opportunity will be the unmistakable message in the face of the coastal recovery.
For 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, Libya, the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department’s review of journalist phone records as part of a leak investigation.
The visit occurs as Congress is away for a weeklong recess that likely will silence the daily attention lawmakers had been paying to the three political upheavals.
For 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 and he broke a Guinness World record Friday by cutting a 5.5 mile ceremonial ribbon that symbolically tied together some of the towns hardest-hit by Sandy. The state has a $25 million marketing campaign to highlight the shore’s resurgence.
Both men will reprise the remarkable bipartisan tableau they offered during Sandy’s immediate aftermath when Obama flew to New Jersey just days before the election to witness the storm’s wreckage. Politically, the visit plays well for both men.
Christie, seeking re-election this year, will stand shoulder-to- shoulder with a president popular among Democrats in a Democratic-leaning state. And Obama, dueling with congressional Republicans on a number of fronts, gets to display common cause with a popular GOP stalwart. (Obama has not scheduled any face time with state Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie’s likely Democratic opponent in the governor’s race).
Christie, in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on Friday, downplayed the politics, even when asked if ties to 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,” Christie said. “I’m the governor. I’ll be here to welcome him.”