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Talks over Sandy aftermath enter new phase for Christie, Obama

This news story was published on November 8, 2012.
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By Melissa Hayes, The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) –

TRENTON, N.J. — The Republican governor picked up the phone Wednesday night and congratulated the Democratic president who just won a second term. Then they got down to business.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama have been in constant communication since Superstorm Sandy brought storm surges that carried sections of the Jersey Shore’s boardwalk and homes out to sea, flooded entire neighborhoods, demolished buildings and left 2.76 million homes and businesses without power.

The bipartisan relationship — which is not that much different from their interactions after Hurricane Irene last year — has angered some Republicans. They blame Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s loss Tuesday in part on Christie because the governor openly praised the president for helping the state, public praise that came in the final days of the campaign.

Although it was the first time Christie and Obama had spoken since Election Day, the governor said Wednesday’s call wasn’t about politics.

“We didn’t have a political strategy discussion,” Christie said. “I said, ‘Congratulations on your win last night, Mr. President.’ He said, ‘Thank you, Governor,’ and then we went on to business.”

Christie has cast aside critics, saying he is thankful for the president’s assistance, but that is no indication that his support for Romney ever faded.

Christie, a vocal Romney supporter who traveled the country to raise money for the former Massachusetts governor, was supposed to attend an event in Nevada a week before the election but canceled, saying he wanted to stay in New Jersey to assess damage from the storm.

Romney went to Pennsylvania on the Sunday before Election Day for a rally just miles from the State House. Christie’s absence from that stage — despite dozens of appearances on Romney’s behalf across the country — prompted even more clamor from partisans.

Christie later said that he was never invited, and Romney was not expecting him to attend. Christie then faulted what he said were Romney staff members who were afraid they wouldn’t have jobs after the polls closed.

The governor has been speaking frequently with Obama, relaying the state’s needs to the federal government.

Christie has detailed some of their phone calls, saying early conversations focused on the need for disaster declarations so residents and businesses could seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They also spoke about the widespread power outages, which caused problems at wastewater treatment facilities and prevented gasoline from being distributed.

On Wednesday night, Christie said he started discussing the next phase of the recovery process with Obama.

“We started to talk about rebuilding,” Christie said at a news conference in at the National Guard Armory in Somerset on Thursday.

“I gave an update on where we were on power and on fuel and on wastewater treatment and environmental concerns. And then I started to talk to him about the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore, and he told me we’ll have more conversations about that in the days to come.”

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