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As Obama, Christie survey storm damage, politics is unavoidable (+video)

Obama and Christie, a key supporter of Mitt Romney, exchanged praise as they viewed the storm damage inflicted on New Jersey, while Romney, campaigning in Florida, voiced support for FEMA.

By Staff writer / October 31, 2012

President Barack Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon his arrival at Atlantic City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Atlantic City, NJ. Obama traveled to the region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic Coast in New Jersey in areas damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie surveyed storm-damaged New Jersey together Wednesday, both from the air and on the ground, meeting with victims and swapping praise for each other.

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The Democratic president called the Republican governor “responsive” and “aggressive” in preparing for hurricane Sandy before the storm hit.

“I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before,” Mr. Obama said of Governor Christie. “So I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.”

Christie, a high-profile supporter of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, also offered kind words for Obama.

“It’s been a great working relationship to make sure that we're doing the jobs that people elected us to do,” said Christie. “And I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state.”

At any other time, politics would not be part of the story. Indeed, both sides called Wednesday’s activities nonpolitical. But just six days before the election, politics can’t help but be part of the equation. And it has created a particular challenge for Mr. Romney, who campaigned Wednesday in Florida and who has no governing role in addressing the storm.

Instead, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, sought to clarify his position on the role of the federal government in disaster relief if elected president, and issued a statement affirming his support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Romney had raised questions last year about his view of the federal government’s role in disaster management, when he said in a GOP primary debate that natural disasters are best handled at the state level or by the private sector. In light of this week’s massive storm, which has caused damage estimated at $50 billion, Romney’s comment has reignited debate over his views on the role of the federal government.


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