(Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama rejoined Governor Chris Christie in a New Jersey beach town seven months after Hurricane Sandy hit to showcase the recovery from the devastating storm at the start of the tourist season.
The Democratic president and the Republican governor traded praise for federal and state efforts to restore the shoreline, New Jersey’s single biggest tourism draw, while saying the rebuilding isn’t finished.
“We’re not done yet; I want to make sure everybody understands that,” Obama told a crowd in Asbury Park after being introduced by Christie. “After all those losses, we don’t want them to think that somehow we’ve checked the box and we’ve moved on. That’s part of the reason I came back.”
Christie said the recovery was accomplished because politics were put aside after Sandy struck on Oct. 29.
“We all came together because New Jersey is more important, and our citizens’ lives are more important, than any kind of politics at all,” Christie said.
Obama, 51, and Christie, 50, walked the boardwalk in Point Pleasant and met with local residents and business owners. While Point Pleasant and Asbury Park escaped the level of devastation that Sandy wrought on shore towns such as Mantoloking, Seaside Heights and Ortley Beach, they are among coastal communities struggling to remind vacationers that they will be open for the beach season.
Christie said the recovery has made progress by putting partisanship aside, yet politics still were at play. The governor is seeking a second term in November and is a potential future Republican presidential candidate.
He praised Obama’s leadership in the storm response last year, giving the president in a pre-election boost as he was being challenged by Republican Mitt Romney. Christie, in turn, was criticized by some Republicans for complimenting Obama.
The president’s visit now may boost his bipartisan credentials as he seeks deals with congressional Republicans on immigration and other issues. It also may boost Christie’s re- election bid in a Democratic state. Christie’s campaign has focused on hurricane recovery. A voter survey in March showed that 44 percent of Democrats said he deserved another four years, and 45 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of him in a poll last month.
New Jersey’s travel and tourism industry employs more than 500,000 workers, or about 10 percent of all jobs in the state, according to his office.
Sandy, which came ashore near Atlantic City, killed dozens of people and destroyed 365,000 homes in the state. Christie has said it will cost $36.9 billion for repairs and to prevent devastation from future storms.
Christie holds an edge of more than 30 percentage points in recent voter surveys over state Senator Barbara Buono, a Metuchen Democrat. He refuted claims last week by Democrats that his appearance in a $25 million advertising campaign to promote the state to visitors was designed to advance his candidacy. He said the ads, which are federally funded, are to let people know that New Jersey and its communities are open for business.