President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are reuniting Tuesday at the Jersey Shore in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy's devastation. Both men stand to benefit from the joint events. For Christie, they come at the start of the summer tourism season and in an election year. For Obama, it's a respite from controversies that have put his administration on the defensive.
Here's a look at what's in this trip—politically—for the president and Christie, who is a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate.
1. Obama escapes Washington. His administration faces a trio of controversies that weighed down the White House's agenda. The trip comes after a weekend visit to tornado-ravaged Moore, Okla., and offers the president another chance to change the subject from revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea-party groups and that the Justice Department seized Associated Press phone records and targeted a Fox News reporter, and from Republican investigations into the lethal Beghazi attacks. So far the president's job-approval rating has held virtually steady at 53 percent, up 2 points from last month, according to a CNN/ORC survey. But if history is any guide, it may take up to two months for the public to ding the president's job approval over the scandals.
2. The president reprises his role as comforter-in-chief. Christie heaped praise on Obama when he visited the Garden State last fall in the aftermath of the storm that had claimed 72 lives and caused an estimated $50 billion in damage along the East Coast. "He's been very attentive, and anything I've asked for, he's gotten to me. So I thank the president publicly for that," Christie said in October. "He's done, as far as I'm concerned, a great job for New Jersey." The worst of the storm struck just days before the presidential election, and scenes of the president and governor touring the coast, comforting devastated residents, and praising one another dominated the headlines. That visit coincided with a 4-point bump in Obama's approval rating after he toured the destruction, as well as a win on Election Day.
3. Christie grabs the spotlight—again. Christie was the focal point of media coverage last fall, in part because his state was severely damaged but also because the GOP governor and potential 2016 presidential contender praised the president so much. Since the storm, Christie has appeared on MSNBC, lauding the president for his handling of the crisis. He also rebuffed the notion that his close relationship with the president could have cost Republican Mitt Romney the election. "Listen, the president has kept every promise that he made," Christie said. "What I was saying at the time was, I was asked how the president was doing, I said, he's doing a good job, he's kept his word. And so everybody knows that I have about 95 percent level disagreement with Barack Obama on issues of principle and philosophy. But the fact is we have a job to do. And what people expect from people they elect is to do their job." This time around, the governor kicked off the Memorial Day weekend with an interview on the Today show, a 5.5-mile-long ribbon cutting, and a $25 million tourism campaign. The campaign's slogan? "Stronger Than the Storm."
4. The governor's reunion with Obama underscores his willingness to work with Democrats in a blue state. Christie is favored to win reelection in November in his mostly Democratic state. He's outpacing his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, by 32 points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll last month. Buono, unlike Christie, is a virtual unknown in the state, with 78 percent saying they didn't know enough about her to form an opinion. Christie's huge advantage appears in part due to Sandy and his dealings with Obama. The governor's job approval skyrocketed after the storm, jumping 16 points from 56 percent before the storm to 72 percent afterward, according to a pair of Quinnipiac surveys.
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