NJ Gov. Chris Christie has staked out a curious path to the GOP nomination in 2016. His bromance with President Obama may add a few points to his expected landslide reelection, but it is hard to see it endearing him to GOP primary voters. Next week, Christie doubles-down on this strategy and will tour New Jersey with the President, touting the slow recovery from Hurricane Sandy.
Tuesday’s tour of the Jersey Shore, just after the start of the traditional summer tourist season, is a welcome distraction for Obama, whose Administration is engulfed in three major scandals. Christie, meanwhile, gets some political return on the praise he showered on Obama in the days ahead of the election last November. Already facing an underwhelming, and underfunded, Democrat opponent, Christie’s tour with Obama is his attempt to run up the score.
The danger here for Christie is that recovery from Sandy is already much slower than expected. Only now, almost seven months after the storm, are the boardwalks along the Jersey Shore reopening. These attractions are critical for New Jersey tourism, which provides 1-in-10 jobs in the Garden State. The long delay in reopening shows the limitations of government.
At the beginning of the year, Congress appropriated over $60 billion for Sandy relief. According to the CBO, however, only around $9 billion would be spent within the first nine months. To date only a few billion has been spent on the recovery. The slow pace of the federal government means that a full recovery from the storm is likely to drag on for years.
Christie, however, is now inextricably tied to the federal recovery efforts. Next week’s tour of the modest recovery efforts further links him to President Obama and his Administration’s managing of the funds approved by Congress.
New Jersey votes in just over five months for Governor. His high-profile PR campaign to promote recovery will see him win reelection comfortably. If the slow pace of recovery continues, though, it may become a mark against his run for the GOP nomination.