ASBURY PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were together again Tuesday for a common cause — celebrating the comeback of the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, Obama told a crowd of almost 4,000 in Asbury Park that the Jersey Shore will be better and more resilient than it was before.
Seven months ago, Obama and Christie made headlines for crossing party lines to work together – even with just a handshake and a pat on the back. In another show of unity Tuesday, Christie proved he was top dog in a football toss at an arcade stop in Point Pleasant, scoring a prize and a high-five from the commander-in-chief.
Meanwhile, thousands, including children, waited in a long line to get a glimpse of Obama as he spoke in front of the convention hall on the Asbury Park boardwalk.
It was his second trip to the Jersey Shore since the destruction wrought by Sandy.
“You are stronger than the storm,” Obama said. “After all you’ve dealt with, after all you’ve been through, the Jersey Shore is back and it is open for business.”
He said the job of repairing the $38 billion in damage inflicted by the storm is not over, adding that his return visit was intended to show he’s still committed to putting the federal government to work.
“From the moment the hurricane hit, first responders worked around the clock to save lives and property and neighbors opened their homes and their hearts to one another and you came together as citizens to rebuild and we’re not done yet,” Obama said. “When we make a commitment that we got your back, we mean it.”
EXTRA: Watch The President’s Full Speech From Asbury Park Below
President Obama also quoted Bruce Springsteen, to the delight of the crowd.
“‘Down the shore, everything’s all right.’ He’s the only guy a president still has to call ‘The Boss,'” Obama said.
Gesturing to his host, Obama praised Christie for “the great work he’s done here” in leading the recovery effort.
Those who heard the president speak said they were happy with what he had to say.
“The excitement – the energy — he came with words of reassurance that he is with us here in Asbury and the surrounding shore area,” said James Brown of Asbury Park.
“It shows you that he wants to make sure that what he paid is really put in work, so that’s awesome,” a man told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
“I think it’s just validation at the top that, hey, we’re not forgotten,” another New Jerseyan told Silverman.
“I’m just glad he’s here in Asbury Park,” a resident told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “It shows his concern for the Jersey Shore.”
Obama landed at McGuire Air Force Base, where he was greeted by Christie.
They also toured several other damaged communities, and met families and business owners who have spent months trying to get their lives back together.
Obama promised not to stop until the job is done at the shore, but joked about being trapped in the problems of Washington.
“If they only let me have fun, I would come here to the shore,” Obama said.
Christie ranked the recovery of the state’s boardwalks as an 8 on a scale of 10, but conceded that in other parts of the state many homeowners are still rebuilding.
Overall, the storm damaged or destroyed 360,000 homes or apartment units across the state.
“We still need help. There’s still a lot of damage done to the area and we need this area to be lifted up,” Neptune resident Pam Ferguson told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.
“There’s still a lot of people who are homeless and displaced and going through a lot of trouble and heartache,” said Brick Town resident Ken Napalo.
“You see that it’s not all back like it should be,” one Asbury Park resident told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
But the coastal recovery is a big potential boon for the state, where tourism is a nearly $40 billion industry. On Friday, Christie cut a more than 5 mile-long ribbon Friday to mark the start of the summer tourist season.
Obama and Christie reprised the remarkable bipartisan tableau they offered during Sandy’s immediate aftermath, when Obama flew to New Jersey just days before the November election to witness the storm’s wreckage.
Politically, the visit plays well for both men. Christie, seeking re-election this year, stood 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, displayed a common cause with a popular GOP stalwart.
Christie has played down the politics and while introducing the president Tuesday in Asbury Park, said rebuilding the shore is more important than party lines.
“Republicans, Democrats, independents — we all came together because New Jersey is more important and our citizens are more important than any kind of politics at all,” Christie,” he said.
For Obama coming off a week that had the IRS in the crosshairs of a scandal, the trip also offered an opportunity to demonstrate the work of FEMA, whose response to disasters has been met with bipartisan praise.
But privately, some Democrats and Republicans told Sloan they were not too happy with Obama and Christie’s buddy-buddy appearance. And the Democrat who will most likely face Christie in the election, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Edison), said as much as Christie tries to appear as a moderate in the predominantly Democratic state, he is not any such thing.
“It’s nice he masquerading as non-partisan today when benefits him,” Buono said. “I wish he showed non-partisanship when it comes to putting people back to work.”
On Friday, Christie dismissed Buono and anyone who criticizes him.
“Now, I think folks are so sick of the partisan divide in Washington that when they see us together in New Jersey, it sets a good example,” Christie said.
And Madison Young of Bradley Beach said the partisan differences between Obama and Christie are irrelevant.
“I think it was fun to see him,” Young said, adding that Christie was “fun” too and both were likeable.
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