Christie spreads bipartisan gospel in D.C.

June 21, 2013

(Getty Images)

A day after the latest standoff between Democrats and Republicans in Congress left the farm bill in tatters, New Jersey Gov. (and possible 2016 presidential candidate) Chris Christie rolled into town spreading his message of bipartisanship.

"When people are suffering, we're Americans," he said, recalling Hurricane Sandy. "There are some who will see politics in everything. Twenty-five-foot waves coming onto your shoreline don't know partisanship."

Christie has been criticized by his fellow Republicans for his lack of loyalty to party orthodoxy. He stayed far away from Washington last weekend during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, choosing to rub shoulders with President Clinton in Chicago instead of strategizing with big-name Republicans about how to win future elections.

And when he finally did make it to D.C. Friday it was not to meet with Republicans, or even practice politics. Instead, at the 2013 Conference on Volunteering and Service, Christie thanked volunteers of organizations that supported New Jersey's recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

"I came here to Washington D.C. on the first day of summer from New Jersey not because I don’t have anything to do back home but because I so admire what all of you do and what you stand for," he said. "As a governor of a state that’s been devastated by the worst natural disaster in its history, I can tell you that the efforts of volunteers in our state were indispensable and continue to be indispensable to us being able to recover so quickly as a state."

Recalling several individual stories, Christie acknowledged several volunteers who "didn't worry about their own safety" to help the people of their community. Days before the presidential election last November, Christie received flak for similarly praising President Obama's response to the state's recovery effort.

But his popularity in New Jersey skyrocketed, and Christie has been a strong advocate of bipartisan politics ever since.

"If the federal government's response to Hurricane Sandy was sub par, I would've said it," Christie justified. "I said to some of my Republican friends after this, 'What did you expect me to do when the president showed up? Did you want me to wear my Romney sweatshirt?"

Christie has been scrutinized by both parties for his relationship with Democrats. His efforts to reach across the aisle have been viewed as preparation for a possible presidential run in 2016, and don't hurt in his reelection campaign for governor either as a Republican in a Democratic state. Christie claims it's all natural.

"I was raised that, whether you voted for the president or not - and I didn't, twice - we have one president at a time," he said at the conference. "When all this stuff was going on, it never crossed my mind to act any other way."

Ruth Tam is a writer based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @ruthetam.
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Ed O'Keefe | June 21, 2013