Pool photo by Doug Mills
Beach sand surrounds homes in seaside Heights, N.J. The photo was made from a helicopter traveling behind Marine One with President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
by David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- the newest political odd couple -- teamed up Wednesday to tour the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy along the Jersey shore.
The Democratic president and Republican governor -- a major supporter of White House challenger Mitt Romney -- took an aerial tour that included sights of charred houses, sand-packed and water-logged streets, and busted bridges and boardwalks.
At least one Jersey resident showed some puckish political humor; on the sand at Point Pleasant Beach, someone wrote ROMNEY in large letters.
While an outspoken critic of Obama's policies in general, Christie has praised the president's leadership in the aftermath of the hurricane that swept through the northeast United States on Monday and Tuesday.
Obama returned the favor Wednesday at a meeting with New Jersey residents affected by the storm, saying: "I want to let you know that your governor is working overtime" to help repair the damage.
"The entire country has been watching what's been happening -- everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit," Obama said, adding that his "top priority" is to get power restored.
"The country comes to help because you never know when someone is going to get hit by a disaster," Obama said.
Christie told his constituents, "it's really important to have the president of the United States here."
The governor, wearing a blue polar fleece, slacks, and white sneakers, greeted Obama earlier in the afternoon at the airport in Atlantic City. The president wore khaki pants, a blue windbreaker and brown hiking boots.
The two men and Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, boarded Marine One helicopter for their tour. Obama and Christie also planned to speak with local officials about rescue and recovery efforts.
While the Atlantic City boardwalk appeared to be intact, observers saw mountains of sand covering city streets up and down the Jersey coast. Pools and pools of standing water also dotted the landscape.
In Beach Haven, on Long Beach Island, entire streets were underwater. Buildings were boarded up or bore broken windows.
Some of the worst damage occurred at Seaside Heights, where roads were covered by either water or sand. Both the boardwalk and a nearby carnival got smashed by Hurricane Sandy, leaving wood fragments everywhere. A fire that burned down at least eight houses still smolders. Other homes lost their decks to the storm's fury. Abandoned cars remained on a bridge knocked down at one end.
Earlier in the day, Obama visited FEMA headquarters in Washington for another briefing on recovery plans.
The president also called the New York University-Langone Medical Center to thank doctors and nurses for evacuating more than 200 patients as the storm approached, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
One topic Carney would not address: What impact, if any, will the storm have on Obama's fortunes on Election Day next Tuesday. Carney said the president is dealing with governors, mayors and other local officials "regardless" of political party.
"This is a time to focus on what was a devastating storm and the terrible aftermath of that storm," Carney said. "This is not a time for politics."
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