BRIGANTINE, N.J. (AP) — President Barack Obama soberly toured the destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy on Wednesday in the company of New Jersey’s Republican governor and assured victims “we will not quit” until cleanup and recovery are complete. Six days before their hard-fought election, rival Mitt Romney muted criticism of Obama as he barnstormed battleground Florida.
Forsaking partisan politics for the third day in a row, the president helicoptered with Gov. Chris Christie over washed-out roads, flooded homes, boardwalks bobbing in the ocean and, in Seaside Heights, a fire still burning after ruining about eight structures.
Back on the ground, the president introduced one local woman to “my guy Craig Fugate.” In a plainspoken demonstration of the power of the presidency, Obama instructed the man at the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a 7,500-employee federal agency, to “make sure she gets the help she needs” immediately.
The storm added another element of uncertainty, as Obama spent a third straight day embracing his role as incumbent and Romney tried to tread lightly during a major East Coast disaster.
The president received a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency across town from the White House before flying to New Jersey, where the shoreline absorbed some of the worst damage in a storm that killed 50 and laid waste to New York City’s electrical and transportation systems.
Christie was waiting when Air Force One landed, and he and Obama, two figures in blue windbreakers, walked together toward the president’s helicopter to begin their tour. It was a tableau that seemed impossible a week ago – a president struggling to defend his economic record in a tight election, flying off to a non-battleground state to spend the afternoon in the company of the man who delivered the keynote address at Romney’s Republican National Convention this summer.
Three hours later, the two men spoke of one another in glowing terms.
“He has sprung into action immediately,” said Christie.
Said Obama of the governor, “He has put his heart and soul into making sure the people of New Jersey bounce back stronger than before.”