Winds of change: old foes forge an unlikely alliance
BRIGANTINE, New Jersey: After Atlantic superstorm Sandy ravaged the Eastern seaboard, an unlikely partnership has emerged between the Democratic president seeking re-election and the Republican who once called him the ''most ill-prepared person to assume the presidency''.
The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was the only person to greet the US President, Barack Obama, when he walked off Air Force One in Atlantic City.
Both wearing zip-up jackets bearing their names and titles, they shook hands, and Mr Obama patted Mr Christie on the back. They then boarded Marine One, the presidential helicopter, for an hour-long aerial tour of Sandy's destruction in the state, a visit to a shelter and a walk along a storm-damaged street.
Putting aside differences ... US President Barack Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie toured storm-stricken parts of New Jersey together. Photo: AP
When they were done, the two men took turns thanking and praising each other. Mr Obama ''has sprung into action immediately'' to get New Jersey the resources it needs, Mr Christie said after they finished in Brigantine. ''I cannot thank the President enough for his personal concern.''
The President said Mr Christie had shown ''extraordinary leadership'' and ''has been responsive and aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this storm''.
Even as White House officials and campaign aides insisted that politics played no role in the visit, with six days left for voters to decide whether to re-elect Mr Obama or replace him with Republican Mitt Romney, the storm-driven alliance was fraught with political significance.
United in crisis … Christie, left, told reporters he "cannot thank" Obama enough. Photo: AFP
''It's obviously not the photo op that Romney wanted - a top Republican side-by-side praising the President,'' said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at New Jersey's Princeton University.
Mr Christie, who spurned calls to run for the Republican presidential nomination last year, was the keynote speaker at the party's national convention in Tampa, Florida, and has campaigned on Mr Romney's behalf. He has not minced words when talking about the Commander-in-Chief. A few months ago he said Mr Obama was ''posing and preening'' as president, and called him a ''bystander in the Oval Office''.
At a rally last week in Richmond, Virginia, Mr Christie repeated one of his frequent lines of derision for Mr Obama: ''He's like a man wandering around a dark room, hands up against the wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership, and he just can't find it.''
With the lights out for an extended time across large swaths of New Jersey, the White House and Mr Christie's office worked on arranging the trip once it became clear that a presidential visit wouldn't take resources away from recovery efforts, administration officials said.
In a bitter presidential election, the praise from Mr Christie and the photos of Mr Obama alongside one of Mr Romney's most vocal advocates provides the President a rare opportunity to showcase bipartisanship and the power of the federal government to respond in a crisis.
Both are areas where Mr Obama is able to draw contrasts with Mr Romney, who has also been appealing to swing voters as someone who can work with leaders from the opposing political party and said during the primary elections that he would transfer Federal Emergency Management Agency duties to state and local governments.
On Fox News Mr Christie gave Mr Obama ''great credit'' and said: ''He's been very attentive and anything I've asked for, he's gotten to me.''