Obama, New Jersey governor to reunite Tuesday for storm tour

WASHINGTON Mon May 27, 2013 5:16pm EDT

WASHINGTON May 27 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will join New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday for a tour of the Jersey Shore damaged by Superstorm Sandy, replaying a scene from last year that some observers believe helped Obama win re-election.

Christie, a Republican, gave Obama, a Democrat, blunt praise for his response to the devastating storm that hit the U.S. East Coast just days before the Nov. 6 election.

"I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and his compassion," Christie said during an Oct. 31 tour together of the damaged areas.

Though Christie supported the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, in the 2012 race, his compliments to the Democratic incumbent were seen as a boost to Obama.

The president could probably use the help again.

Obama has spent the last two weeks trying to get past a series of controversies over his administration's handling of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the targeting of journalists in leak probes, and the response to revelations that the Internal Revenue Service gave extra scrutiny to conservative-leaning groups.

This will be his second tour of a storm-battered area in as many days. On Sunday, Obama traveled to Oklahoma to view the damage from a tornado.

The president has sought to portray his administration as being quick and effective at responding to natural disasters, in contrast to his predecessor, George W. Bush, whose administration was widely criticized for its handling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

The White House said Obama and Christie would view the recovery efforts from Sandy, including preparations by local businesses ahead of the important summer tourist season.

"The president ... will visit with families and business owners who have shown such resilience in the face of the destructive storm, highlight the extensive rebuilding efforts to date, and underscore his administration's ongoing commitment to stand with the impacted communities as the important work of recovery continues," the White House said.

Christie is a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016. After struggling with obesity for much of his adult life, Christie said earlier this month he underwent lap band surgery to lose weight.

Obama, a lanky exercise fanatic, cannot run for president again. (Editing by Philip Barbara)

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