Obama, Christie Unlikely Partners After Sandy

President Obama traveled to New Jersey on Wednesday to tour some of areas hardest hit by Sandy. Audie Cornish talks to Mara Liasson for more.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

The most populous city in the country is drying out and beginning a long and complicated recovery. One positive sign: Tomorrow, some New York City subway routes are scheduled to reopen. But today, gridlock ruled as people took to their cars. And that means it's car pool time.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: You have to have three people in the car. I know it is inconvenient for a lot of people, but the bottom line is the streets can only handle so much.

CORNISH: That's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who laid out restrictions for most people driving into Manhattan.

SIEGEL: Still, car pooling is low on the list of troubles caused by Sandy. In a few minutes, we'll hear from Hoboken, New Jersey, which remains flooded. And the big picture is tragic too: 66 people confirmed dead, 30 in New York state and eight in New Jersey.7

CORNISH: Earlier today, President Obama flew to Atlantic City. He got a look at hurricane damage, along with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and pledged his support.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are here for you, and we will not forget. We will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need until you've rebuilt.

CORNISH: NPR's Mara Liasson is with us to talk about the president's trip. And, Mara, the storm has made a strange pairing here, seeing Republican Chris Christie and the Democratic president. Tell us more about their time together today.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, they traveled up and down the coastline in Marine One, the president's helicopter, so they could survey the damage. They also visited a community center in Brigantine, where they visited with people whose lives have been disrupted and also with a lot of volunteer workers.

And they also really praised each other profusely. The - Christie said the president has sprung into action immediately. He can't thank the president enough for his compassion and concern. And the president said of Christie, who's been one of his harshest critics, Christie has been responsive and aggressive. He's put his heart and soul into making sure that New Jersey bounces back. And he thanked him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.

CORNISH: Is there some political peril for the president in a storm?

LIASSON: Well, there - yes, there's political peril for any president with a natural disaster. Just remember George W. Bush with Katrina. But the president has also a big opportunity here - as does Chris Christie, who harbors some future presidential ambitions of his own - and that is to be competent and to be aggressive and to be focused on the task at hand and to be not political.

CORNISH: And what about Governor Christie? I mean, it seems that he's more or less abandoned his role as one of Mitt Romney's most energetic surrogates here.

LIASSON: Well, he's abandoned it at least for the moment. Remember, he once described President Obama as blindly walking around the White House looking for a clue. Now, he can't thank the president enough for his aggressive focused leadership. I don't think that he's completely abandoned Mitt Romney, but he has a much bigger job to do.

He has a state full of people who are hurting. He also has a state full of independents who don't want to see him distracted at all by presidential politics. And he has been blunt in the way Christie can only be, saying that he doesn't care at all about the presidential election.

CORNISH: And has - have people actually given any criticism to Christie about this?

LIASSON: No. Well, not that - no. There have been some - maybe some grumbling behind the scenes among Republicans because he doesn't seem to have invited Mitt Romney into the state. But this is a governor who's doing exactly what he is supposed to do, a president who's doing exactly what he's supposed to do. And how this affects the presidential race remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that this is the right thing for both of these guys at the moment.

CORNISH: NPR's Mara Liasson, thank you.

LIASSON: Thank you.

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