Does it count as an endorsement?
On a tour through the rebuilt New Jersey shoreline, Gov. Chris Christie saved President Barack Obama from arcade-game humiliation, winning the commander in chief a stuffed “Chicago” bear in a football tossing game after Obama went 0-for-5 on the Point Pleasant boardwalk.
In town to inspect Hurricane Sandy recovery, Obama and the Republican governor appeared to be the best of friends Tuesday, smiling and backslapping their way across the Garden State. At the boardwalk, the pair visited a half-finished sand sculpture and the “TouchDown Fever” game. As Christie threw the football through the tire on his first and only attempt, Obama gave him a high five ending in clasped hands. He added of Christie, “That’s because he’s running for office.” He left out, “as a Republican.”
Christie, who is a sure-thing to win a second term in the governors mansion this November, is indeed a Republican, though it may have been hard to tell. His opponent, Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono, was nowhere to be seen Tuesday as Obama jogged down the steps of Air Force One to shake Christie’s hand and give him a buddy-buddy slap on the shoulder.
The pair has been friendly since the devastating hurricane hit barely a week before the 2012 election, when Obama pledged swift and massive support and the Romney-surrogate reciprocated with a hug and praise of Obama’s presidential leadership. “The Hug” cost Christie, a leading contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, support within his own party and with the conservative grassroots saying he should have been less enthusiastic about Obama after the storm. Christie has said he was only doing right by his state.
Despite being the odds-on favorite in November, Christie isn’t taking any chances. He stars along with his family in a $25 million state-funded campaign to highlight the revitalized Jersey Shore before the summer tourist season.
Buono told reporters last week that she was “not disappointed” with Obama for meeting with Christie. Her campaign said she was scheduled to meet with Obama before his remarks at the Asbury Park Convention Hall Tuesday afternoon.
UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: According to a senior administration official, Buono was part of a group of approximately 30 Democratic and Republican state and local officials who met briefly with Obama before his speech Tuesday. There was a photo line, but no separate meeting, the official added.