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May 26, 2017

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Obama, pro-Romney governor visit storm victims

BRIGANTINE, New Jersey/WASHINGTON/NEW YORK -- U.S. President Barack Obama joined one of his top Republican critics to visit victims of Superstorm Sandy on Wednesday, giving Americans a high-profile display of presidential leadership while leaving rival Mitt Romney awkwardly on the sidelines less than a week before Election Day.

Obama visited New Jersey, the state hardest hit by the storm which hammered much of the northeastern United States, accompanied by Gov. Chris Christie. The governor has been one of Romney's most prominent supporters, but he has been effusive in his praise of Obama's response to the storm.

Christie greeted Obama as Air Force One landed on a sunny, breezy day in Atlantic City. The two men boarded the presidential helicopter for an hourlong aerial tour of the storm damage. In one town, someone had written "ROMNEY" in large letters in the sand that covered the ground.

"I want to let you know that your governor is working overtime," Obama told people at an emergency shelter after the tour. "The entire country has been watching what's been happening. Everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit."

They spoke with victims and Christie said, "It's really important to have the president of the United States here." Obama returned the compliment.

Obama, taking another day off the campaign trail to manage the response to the disaster, offered a show of strength and support to victims and promised to stay with them for the "long haul."

"We will not quit until this is done," Obama said, offering condolences for those whose lives were torn apart when they lost loved ones and promising to cut government red tape to aid the work of rebuilding shattered communities.

Christie said it was "very important" that Obama had visited, after pouring praise on the president's handling of the disaster.

"We spent a significant afternoon together," Christie said, adding that the president had "sprung into action" to help provide needed aid to New Jersey, even as they rode in the presidential car.

"I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and the people of our state," Christie said, after bemoaning the "worst storm" he had ever seen in his life.

Obama and Christie clambered aboard the president's Marine One helicopter to fly over New Jersey's Atlantic coast, over houses tipped off their foundations, streets inundated with sand, and still flooded neighborhoods.

In the community of Seaside Heights, Obama saw the twisted iron of an amusement park which took a heavy hit, and a nearby pier that was ripped apart.

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