Praise from rival as Obama surveys Sandy damage

US President Barack Obama (2nd L) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (L) talk with survivors...
US President Barack Obama (2nd L) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (L) talk with survivors of Hurricane Sandy in a community centre while touring damaged areas in Brigantine, New Jersey. REUTERS/Larry Downing
Putting aside partisan differences, President Barack Obama and Republican Governor Chris Christie have toured storm-stricken parts of New Jersey together, taking in scenes of flooded roads and burning homes in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

Obama and Christie, riding in the Marine One presidential helicopter, got an aerial view of some of the hardest-hit areas of the New Jersey shoreline, and afterward the president promised to cut through red tape to help storm victims.

Despite being a top surrogate for Obama's rival Mitt Romney in the November 6 election, Christie kept up his praise for Obama for federal support during and after the devastating storm, which also crippled New York City and other parts of the eastern seaboard.

Obama, who has suspended campaign events since Sunday, has overseen federal relief efforts and taken pains in recent days to show Americans he is focused on handling a major natural disaster instead of pressing his quest for a second term.

But he is set to resume campaigning on Thursday with visits to Nevada and Colorado, followed by stops on Friday in Ohio - considered the most critical election swing state.

From the air in and around the gambling resort of Atlantic City, Obama saw whole streets underwater, beachfront homes swamped by flooding and piers partially blown away.

He also saw the still-burning remnants of about eight homes set afire during the storm, the biggest to hit the U.S. mainland in generations.

"If your homes aren't too badly damaged we can hopefully get you back in," Obama told residents at an evacuation shelter in the town of Brigantine. "The entire country's been watching. Everyone knows how hard Jersey has been hit."

"We're not going to tolerate any red tape. We're not going to tolerate any bureaucracy," Obama said.

Christie, known for his blunt, in-your-face political style, had only good words for the Democratic president. "I want to thank the president for being here today," he said.

The storm and the government's relief efforts have prompted a U-turn in the tone of Christie's rhetoric about Obama. The New Jersey governor leveled harsh criticism at Obama during a keynote speech at the Republican convention in August.

But all that has changed with the damage wrought by Sandy, which bashed the mid-Atlantic Coast on Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Christie said Obama's response to the storm damage in New Jersey was "outstanding."

With an extremely close election looming on Tuesday, Obama has remained in the public spotlight, while Romney has had to suspend campaign appearances to avoid coming across as overly political while millions of people were affected by the storm.

Romney was back campaigning on Wednesday, but his campaign seemed at a loss about how to deal with Christie's praise of Obama.

Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden, asked by reporters whether he agreed with Christie that Obama was doing a good job handling the hurricane response, said: "I believe the response is still going on so I'm not in a position to qualify the response by the federal government. I believe it's still ongoing."

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