President Barack Obama plans to visit the New Jersey shore next week to inspect hurricane-ravaged coastal areas as the state’s tourism season begins.
Governor Chris Christie, 50, a Republican seeking a second term in November, will join Obama on the May 28 tour, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified because the trip hadn’t been formally announced. Shore communities have been rebuilding since Hurricane Sandy swept through Oct. 29, leaving a trail of death and destruction.
The visit by Obama, a Democrat Christie embraced when he arrived to survey the damage days after the storm, may boost the re-election bid of the governor, who has focused his campaign on Sandy recovery. A voter survey in March showed that 44 percent of Democrats said he deserved another four years, and 45 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of him in a poll last month.
“The fact of the matter is, he’s the president of the United States and if he wants to come here and see the people of New Jersey, I’m the governor,” Christie told Matt Lauer, host of NBC-TV’s “Today” show on the Seaside Heights boardwalk today. “I will be here to welcome him.”
The president’s tour of the Garden State is set for the day after the long Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S., traditionally the start of the tourism season along the New Jersey shore. Christie has said he expects the state to be “up and running” to handle the influx of vacationers, which had been seen as a crucial milestone in the recovery effort.
“We need to make sure that we rebuild the tourism industry in this state, at the Jersey Shore,” Christie said during a May 22 visit to the seaside town of Belmar. New Jersey’s travel and tourism industry employs more than 500,000 workers, or about 10 percent of all jobs in the state, according to his office.
Sandy, which came ashore near Atlantic City, killed dozens of people and destroyed 365,000 homes in the state. Christie has said it will cost $36.9 billion for repairs and to prevent devastation from future storms.
Christie was excluded from the Conservative Political Action Conference’s meeting in Washington in March in part because he had praised Obama’s leadership during Sandy, according to a person familiar with the group’s decision.
Christie also had angered CPAC organizers when he criticized House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, for failing to bring a Sandy aid package to a floor vote, according to the person, who asked not to be identified and wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about internal group decision-making. The governor had spoken last year to the group, which draws some of the Republican Party’s most prominent members, many of them who espouse a free-market economy and smaller government.
The governor said today that he wasn’t concerned about the political implications of being seen again with Obama.
Christie holds an edge of more than 30 percentage points in recent voter surveys over state Senator Barbara Buono, a Metuchen Democrat. He refuted claims last week by Democrats that his appearance in a $25 million advertising campaign to promote the state to visitors was designed to advance his candidacy. He said the ads, which are federally funded, are to let people know that New Jersey and its communities are open for business.
During his visit, Obama will discuss the importance of offering economic opportunity to hard-hit families, according to the White House official.
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