WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is looking to get his groove back — at the beach.
A post-Hurricane Sandy tour of the New Jersey coast line on Tuesday, gave the president a chance for a three-point play that can move him ahead of the recent controversies that have dogged the White House. With New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie at Obama’s side, effective government, bipartisanship and economic opportunity was the unmistakable message in the face of the coastal recovery.
For Obama, the tour helps him continue redirecting the political conversation after two weeks of dealing with the fallout over the administration’s response to terror attacks last September in Benghazi, Libya, the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department’s review of journalist phone records as part of a leak investigation.
The visit occurred as Congress is away for a Memorial Day holiday break, a weeklong recess that likely will silence the daily attention lawmakers, particularly Republicans, had been paying to the three political upheavals. It also comes just days after Obama started seeking to change the subject in Washington with a speech defending his controversial program of strikes by unmanned drones and renewing his push to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility.
For Christie, the president’s appearance is yet another way to showcase his beloved Jersey Shore. The Republican has been touting it throughout the Memorial Day weekend as a destination point that is back in business and he broke a Guinness World record Friday by cutting a 5.5 mile ceremonial ribbon that symbolically tied together some of the hardest-hit towns by Sandy. The state has a $25 million marketing campaign to highlight the shore’s resurgence in time for the summer season.
Both men reprised the remarkable bipartisan tableau they offered during Sandy’s immediate aftermath when Obama flew to New Jersey just days before the election to witness the storm’s wreckage. Christie, seeking re-election this year, will stand shoulder to shoulder with a president popular among Democrats in a Democratic leaning state. And Obama gets to display common cause with a popular GOP stalwart. (Obama has not scheduled any face time with state Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie’s likely Democratic opponent in the governor’s race).